UPDATE – April 2013:
FAN was informed this month that the Blackfeet tribe no longer fluoridate their water because they found it was unsafe for their community.
Calling it a victory at the last General Council Meeting, IHS dentist Dr. Gary Pannabecker was thrilled the Blackfeet Tribal Council passed a resolution in support of fluoridating the new Two Medicine water project.
For more than five years Dr. Pannabecker has been working to get the water fluoridated. The new Two Medicine water project will provide water to approximately 5,000 of the 10,000 residents of the Blackfeet Reservation. Community water fluoridation is one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. Even third world countries benefit from water fluoridation. It is a safe, effective, and inexpensive way to prevent tooth decay for all ages. Over 170 million people in the United States have the benefit of a fluoridated water supply.
Fluoride is a natural element. It is found in rocks, soil, fresh water and salty ocean water. Some communities are lucky enough to have adequate amounts of natural fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. Unfortunately, most are not.
The town of Browning’s water system was fluoridated up until 1998, and during this time only 17% of the reservation’s children aged 3 – 5 years had decay in their teeth. The cavity rate has more than tripled to approximately 77% in 2007 for this same age group.
The health effects caused by poor teeth are tremendous and when you think of children having surgery for tooth decay, the effects can be extremely dangerous. In addition, fewer sugary drinks, daily brushing and fluoridated water can begin early prevention for children and can have a great effect on adults as well.
Preventable tooth decay can also save the IHS several thousands of dollars that can be used for other needed procedures for the rest of the population. Fluoride is safe and effective.
If you have questions about the use of fluoride, please call the dental office or the health educator at the Blackfeet Community Hospital.