It’s been called one of the greatest public health achievements of the 20th century. That’s what the Centers For Disease Control said about communities that add fluoride to the water. Colorado Springs is not one of them and children seem to be at the center of a debate on whether adding fluoride to our tap water is risky or not.
Growing up, lots of us hated going to the dentist and some of us still hate it. We all remember our dentists checking up on us. “Make sure that they’re getting all the plaque off the teeth,” said Colorado Springs Dentist, John Lydiatt, DDS.
We also remember our parents wagging their fingers at us. “We encourage them to brush daily,” said Colorado Springs dad, Barry Bryan. They’d all tell us to take care of our teeth or else we’d get cavities. “They turn into crowns and they turn into root canals. They turn into more dental treatment later,” said Lydiatt.
Most dentists say the health of a child’s teeth depends heavily on what happens before the age of six. It’s the most critical time for their developing teeth and eventually for their permanent teeth, with fluoride being a key ingredient. “Fluoride also aids in the development of the enamel,” said Lydiatt.
But fluoride isn’t added into the Colorado Springs water supply. “I didn’t know that they don’t put fluoride in the water. I thought they did,” said Bryan.
The fact is, some parts of the city don’t need it because it occurs naturally in the fresh Rocky Mountain snow melt. But only about half the city has that recommended amount. “Right now we don’t have optimum levels of fluoride at least in the area that I practice in and the area that I live,” said Lydiatt who lives in the Rockrimmon neighborhood.
Lydiatt says when you have water that’s fortified with fluoride, that fluoride can get in between your teeth, place a toothbrush can’t reach. Experts say a lack of fluoride in the water has the biggest impact on children. “They love to eat stuff with lots of sugars,” said Bryan.
But there is another side to this story. Lots of Americans believe adding fluoride to our tap water is downright dangerous. “We simply have to err on the side of caution when it comes to our children’s welfare,” said one concerned Colorado Springs parent.
Roughly 10 years ago it went to a vote in Colorado Springs. Parents in the community, then, held signs saying, “No More Toxins.”
Steve Berry with Colorado Springs Utilities says they held public meetings and input sessions. “Ultimately what we found was that for as many people as there were who were passionate about adding fluoride, there were just as many people who were against adding fluoride to the drinking water,” said Berry.
A Web site, www.fluoridealert.org/, cited possible fluoride-linked problems, from discolored teeth to damaging effects on a child’s developing brain.
“There’s two schools of thought,” said Colorado Springs resident, Virgia Szostak. Szostak says her own parents wouldn’t let her use water with fluoride in it. “My mother was really against fluoride so she carried water to my grandmother everyday because we didn’t have fluoride in our water,” said Szostak.
Szostak believes in her heart that’s the reason she developed a mouth full of cavities. “There’s a lot of my other body parts I would rather lose but not my teeth,” said Szostak.
But no matter what side of the fence you’re on dentists say parents can still protect their children’s teeth without worrying about potentially harmful side effects by using toothpaste with extra fluoride.
Most dentists will tell you they know of no damaging side affects from drinking fluoridated tap water.
If you’d like to check out how much fluoride is in your area naturally, click on the link below.
As for Pueblo, the Board of Water Works says they do add fluoride to their water and have been doing it for several decades now.