Nearly half of rural adults in Wisconsin have lost teeth from decay, compared to just over a third of urban adults.
Adding fluoride to rural drinking water systems could close that gap, health officials say. But 256 public water systems in the state – all but 13 of them rural – have fluoride levels below what is recommended.
A third of residents drink water from wells, mostly in rural areas, and most wells don’t have enough fluoride.
Water fluoridation reduces decay by 18 percent to 40 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children who drink water deficient in fluoride should take supplements, said Dr. Warren LeMay, chief dental officer for the state Department of Health Services.
“It’s the best way to prevent tooth decay,” he said.
The Canton, N.Y.-based Fluoride Action Network, which opposes fluoridation, counters that too much fluoride can cause mottled teeth, reduced intelligence, a rare kind of bone cancer and other conditions. The group says topical fluoride treatments should be emphasized instead.
Critics point to a National Academy of Sciences report in 2006 that says the country’s limit on fluoride in drinking water – 4 milligrams per liter – should be lowered.
Levels that high generally occur naturally. For drinking water systems with little or no natural fluoride, the government recommends adding the chemical to reach levels of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter. That’s what many municipalities do.
Cost or public opposition has prevented many rural communities from adding fluoride to their water.
Montfort, a village of about 700 people west of Madison, considered fluoridation about 10 years ago, but “it was too expensive,” said Dave Kuhls, maintenance supervisor.
Voters in Tomah rejected adding fluoride 20 years ago. “Nobody has really pursued it since,” said Ron Williams, water department foreman.
Poynette restored fluoridation last year when voters supported it, after halting it the year before.
A referendum to add fluoride in Prairie du Chien two years ago was defeated by a 3-2 margin.
“It was very polarizing,” said Aaron Kramer, city administrator. “It pretty much ended the discussion.”
Rural Wisconsin water systems with inadequate fluoride
Health officials say the 243 rural water systems with deficient fluoride levels should add the chemical to prevent tooth decay
The communities identified are:
Adell, Allenton, Alma Center, Almena, Amherst, Argyle, Augusta, Bagley, Baldwin, Bangor, Barron, Bay City, Bayfield, Bear Creek, Birchwood, Birnamwood, Black Creek, Black River Falls, Bloomer, Bloomington, Blue River, Bowler, Boyceville, Boyd, Brandon, Brillion, Brownsville, Browntown, Bruce, Burlington, Butternut,
Cadott, Caledonia, Cambria, Cameron, Cashton, Cazenovia, Chaseburg, Chetek, Clayton, Clear Lake, Cleveland, Clyman, Cobb, Cochrane, Coleman, Colfax, Coon Valley, Crandon, Crivitz, Cumberland, Curtiss,
Dallas, Dalton, Dane, Darien, Denmark, Dodge, Dorchester, Downsville, Dresser, Drummond, Eagle, Eastman, East Troy, Edmund, Elcho, Elkhart Lake, Elmwood, Embarrass, Ettick, Exeland, Fairchild, Fairwater, Fifield, Fontana, Fountain City, Fredonia, Friesland,
Gays Mills, Genoa, Glenbeulah, Glen Flora, Gidden, Goodman, Granton, Gratiot, Green Lake, Hallie, Hammond, Hancock, Hatley, Haugen, Hawkins, Highland, Hilbert, Hillsboro, Hixton, Hollandale, Hurley, Hustisford, Hustler, Independence, Iola, Iron Belt, Iron Ridge, Iron River, Ironton, Ithaca,
Jackson, Junction City, Kellnersville, Kendall, Kiel, Knapp, LaFarge, Lakeland, Laona, Lawrence, Ledgeview, Lena, LeRoy, Lincoln, Linden, Livingston, Loganville, Lomira, Lowell, Lyndon Station,
Maiden Rock, Maplewood, Manawa, Manitou Falls, Maribel, Markesan, Maryville, Mattoon, Medford, Melrose, Mercer, Merrillan, Merrimac, Milladore, Milltown, Mindoro, Montfort, Montreal, Mount Calvary, Mount Hope, Mount Sterling, Necedah, Nelson, New Auburn, New Lisbon, Nichols, Norwalk,
Oakdale, Oakfield, Osceola, Ontario, Oostburg, Orfordville, Osseo, Owen, Patch Grove, Pence, Pepin, Pigeon Falls, Pittsville, Plainfield, Port Wing, Pound, Prairie du Chien, Prentice, Princeton, Phelps, Radisson, Randolph, Random Lake, Readstown, Redgranite, Reedsville, Reeseville, Rewey, Rib Lake, Ridgeway, Roberts, Rockland,
Seneca, Sextonville, Seymour, Shawano, Sheldon, Shlocton, Sister Bay, Slinger, Somerset, St. Cloud, St. Joseph, Star Prairie, Stitzer, Stockbridge, Stoddard, Stone Lake, Stratford, Suamico, Suring, Taylor, Theresa, Thorp, Three Lakes, Token Creek, Tomah, Tony, Trempealeau, Troy, Turtle Lake,
Union Center, Viola, Viroqua, Wabeno, Waldo, Walworth, Warrens, Waterford, Wausaukee, Wauzeka, Webster, Westboro, Westby, Weyerhauser, Wheeler, White Lake, Whitelaw, Wilson, Wilton, Winneconne, Winter, Wiota, Withee, Wittenberg, Wyocena, Yuba