It is long past time Missoula took advantage of one of the most significant advances in dental health by adding fluoride to our municipal water supply.
Last week, the Missoula City-County Health Board, backed by dentists, recommended fluoridated water as part of the solution to the serious levels of dental health problems in the city.
Though every sort of unreasonable and unsubstantiated fear has been trotted out in opposition to fluoridated water, its benefits in hundreds of U.S. cities have been obvious, its dangers unproven.
At first, many called fluoride a communist plot. That argument crumbled with the Berlin Wall.
The most common argument now is that fluoridated water increases cancer risks. That assertion is based most often on a pair of flawed 1969 studies that seemed to show a higher percentage of cancer deaths in certain major cities that had fluoride in their water.
The National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, the author of one of those studies, has since re-evaluated the data and determined there was no link between the cancer deaths and fluoride. Numerous other independent studies have reached the same conclusion.
But one constant in all studies of fluoridated water has been its proven effectiveness at preventing tooth decay.
This has been true since 1945, when Grand Rapids, Mich., became a test site for fluoridated water. After 11-years, the cavity rate among children in that city had dropped by more than 60 percent.
The results have been similar, if less dramatic, in the majority of U.S. cities have overcome any trepidation about fluoride. Ask the people in Chicago, Atlanta, Miami and Boston.
There has been no factual connection between fluoride and Alzheimer’s disease, Down syndrome, heart disease or allergies. Just better teeth. Ask the people in Baltimore, Minneapolis, New Orleans and Dallas.
The Health Board’s Fluoridation Study Group next will look at the cost associated with fluoridated water and the logistics of adding it to our water supply.
Unfortunately, the fact that Mountain Water supplies only 55 percent to 60 percent of the Missoula Valley’s water the benefits would not immediately be available to all. But Mountain Water would be a good start.
The fact that 74 percent of Montana residents do not have access to optimally fluoridated water is a statewide disgrace that must be corrected one city at a time.
Though the Health Board has approached the issue from the standpoint of improving dental health among low-income citizens, all would benefit. Just ask the people of St. Louis, Denver, Seattle and San Francisco.