Nancy Standley got a fluoride treatment at her dentist’s office Thursday morning, but she’ll never do it again.
The treatment was simple: Some fluoride-based goop was squeezed into a horseshoe shaped, foam applicator that Standley squished between her teeth for a minute. When the applicator was removed, Standley spit out the excess fluoride solution and went on with her day.
Standley said she grew up in a Nebraska town that likely had fluoride-enhanced water. She grew up believing fluoride was OK.
That belief dissolved Thursday as Standley listened to a presentation about what he said were the ill-effects of fluoride. She was among a group of about a dozen people who gathered in the third floor meeting room of Parmly Billings Library to talk about opposition to a recent proposal to add fluoride to Billings drinking water. The Billings City Council is planning a public hearing on the proposal.
Billings residents Dick Monette and Sarah Rollins talked to the group and encouraged them to take a grassroots approach to controlling what is in their drinking water. People who are concerned about – or do not want – fluoride in drinking water need to call council members, Rollins said.
The proposal would add fluoride to the city’s drinking water as a health and public safety measure.
Billings water has .2 to .6 parts per million of fluoride, but health officials say the optimum level of fluoride to promote healthy teeth and gums is .7 to 1.2 parts per million. Some Montana cities – including Bozeman, Miles City and Colstrip – add fluoride to their water.
Fluoridation has been endorsed by the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher.
Some in Billings disagree, however.
Fluoride is a medication, Rollins said, and should not be given to everyone because it may not be healthy for the entire populace.
“If idiots want to take fluoride, they can,” Rollins said. “This is not just about our health, it’s about our civil liberty.”
That is one area which Standley agrees with and is one of the reasons she attended the meeting.
“I’m afraid if they decide to put this in the water, what else could they put in the water?” Standley said. “It’s one of our last rights: Pure water and clean air.”
Monette, who has lived in Billings for three years, said he started studying the effects of fluoride when he lived in Texas and there was a vote to add fluoride to San Antonio’s water system. “Pro-fluoride forces” have politics and profits at the core of their agenda, Monette said, and people against fluoridation have to play “catch-up” to stop their advances.
Monette provided dozens of statistics and scenarios about the ills of fluoride, which he said are based in science and can be validated.
“Any fact I tell you, I can back up,” Monette said.
Montana is one of 12 states in the nation where less than half the public water systems are fluoridated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adequate fluoride in the water reduces cavities in children by 18 to 40 percent and costs about 72 cents per person a year, the CDC reported.
It is a “noble gesture” to want to help people who don’t have regular access to dental health by adding fluoride to the water, Monette said. But a more realistic, and healthy, answer to helping those people would be to teach them about dental hygiene, healthy diet and to give them toothbrushes and toothpaste, he said. (Monette added he uses natural, fluoride-free toothpaste, which does not require the warning that many popular, fluoride brands carry on the label about calling a poison control center if too much is swallowed.)
Even before changing her mind about the affects of fluoride, Standley said she thought providing dental care to people in need was a better use of money than fluoridating water.
“If you want it, go get it,” she said of fluoride treatments. “If (fluoride) should’ve been in the water, it would be in the water.”
Monette said he wants to exchange his information about fluoride with people who are in favor of public fluoridation.
“I want an open forum, a debate,” Monette said. “And we’ll see how many pro-fluoride people step up and debate it. I don’t think any of them will.”