Residents of Bennington and North Bennington will vote on March 3 whether to increase the fluoride content of Bennington’s municipal water supply from 0.1 to 0.7 parts per million. The vote is advisory and the ultimate decision will be made by the Select Board.
Bennington residents, particularly those of lesser means, have a high rate of dental problems. While not a cure-all, fluoridation is a scientifically proven and yes, safe, way of helping prevent tooth decay in the general population.
We know there is a significant minority of people who strongly disagree with this statement. We know we cannot change their minds. We, however, trust the judgment of such organizations as the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association, which both endorse proper fluoridation of water.
On its website, the CDC notes that communities in the U.S. have been adding fluoride to their water since 1945, and “more than 204 million people in the United States are served by public water supplies containing enough fluoride to protect teeth.” This represents about three-quarters of the country’s population.
Again, according to the CDC, “studies show that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by about 25 percent over a person’s lifetime.” A dollar spent on fluoridation “yields approximately $38 savings in dental treatment costs.”
Yes, fluoride is a chemical and like all chemicals it can be toxic in large amounts, but 0.7 parts per million is not a large amount. Municipal water supplies are also disinfected with the chemical chlorine, yet this hasn’t become a cause celebre the way fluoridation has. We are exposed to all kinds of chemicals in our food and in the air and from products we use. Few of these chemicals in these contexts have been studied to the extent that water fluoridation has.
Frankly, whether you are a resident or a visitor, it’s certainly more dangerous to cross Main Street at noon on a Friday than to drink a glass of fluoridated water.
We respect the sincerity of those who are convinced that fluoridation is a bad thing. Still, we support this recommendation of the Bennington Oral Health Coalition, and know that they have considered many other options on the way to this recommendation.