Fluoride’s benefits too important to ignore

OPINION PIECE SUBMISSION

by
Wisconsin Dental Association President Timothy Durtsche, DDS.
Dr. Durtsche is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who lives and practices in La Crosse.

WEST ALLIS, WIS., Jan. 7  2013 – A handful of Wisconsin communities, often at the urging of out-of-state-activists, have recently given serious thought to eliminating fluoride from public water supplies. That’s a terrible idea that would severely threaten the oral health of our state’s children, adults, seniors and families.

Community water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proclaim community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, along with greater use of vaccinations and recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard.

It’s disturbing to see activist groups come into our state spouting half-truths and using scare tactics to reduce use of this important public oral health tool. As the president of the Wisconsin Dental Association, representing 3,145 dentists and dental hygienists committed to improving oral health in our state, I urge Wisconsin communities not to turn their backs on fluoride.

Here’s why:

  • Fluoridation works. Even with today’s fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinses, studies show community water fluoridation reduces tooth decay at least 25 percent during an individual’s lifetime. Fluoridation benefits people of all ages and incomes, especially those facing barriers to regular dental care. Everyone can boost their cavity protection simply by drinking and cooking with fluoridated water.
  • Fluoridation is safe. Communities have been adding fluoride to drinking water in appropriate amounts to improve public health for more than 67 years. Numerous scientific groups have confirmed the safety of fluoride in drinking water at levels recommended for preventing tooth decay. Scientists have found it safe for people, plants and animals.
  • Fluoridation is cost-effective. A lifetime of fluoridated water costs less than one dental filling. The average annual cost ranges from $3 per person in small communities to just 50 cents per person in large ones. Studies show every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves a community $38 in future dental treatment costs. The Journal of Dental Research reports fluoride use over a 40-year period helped save U.S. taxpayers $40 billion in oral health care costs.

There is no easier, safer or cheaper way to prevent tooth decay than public water fluoridation. Community leaders should get all the facts before making decisions that will affect the long-term health of their citizens. Community water fluoridation is one of our greatest public health achievements and too important to go without.