While working at a practice in the Eagle River valley, dental hygienist Jayme Hovland said she could tell the difference between kids who lived in Gypsum and those who resided in the nearby town of Eagle.
Eagle residents drink water that’s fluoridated, resulting in “less cavities” than the patients she’d see from Gypsum, Hovland said. Fluoride, a chemical additive introduced into U.S. community water systems back in 1945, is still found in the supplies of Vail and Aspen. But not Gypsum, a town associated with a drywall plant and mine, nor Snowmass Village, whose district board voted in July for its complete removal.
Hovland, who now works in Snowmass Village for Dr. Karina Redko, was one of a pack of medical professionals representing the pro- and anti-fluoride debate during a standing-room-only Water & Sanitation District meeting on Wednesday. The district serves 3,400 users who are being polled about its fluoride decision via a mail-in survey with results due Oct. 2.
“I am against the addition of sodium flurorosilicate, an unpurified by-product of the phosphate fertilizer industry, a product sourced from China, being added to the drinking water of Snowmass,” said Dr. Rebecca Steinbach, a valley dentist.
On the other side of the room, the pro-fluoride opinion was represented by Hovland and two other Snowmass Village dental hygienists plus Willliam D. Glenn, a retired ear, nose and throat physician who claims to have “looked in more mouths than most dentists.”
Glenn said he gets disturbed when a “small, hyperactive extremist group dictates policy.”
Tom Lankering, a chiropractor, came armed with a copy of the book, “The Case Against Fluoride.” He claimed that since its publication five years ago, the pro faction has not refuted the premise that fluoride is harmful and unnecessary considering that it’s available in other sources, including toothpaste, sodas and processed foods.
Lankering went on to say that “individuals should have the right to be able to choose. We’re losing our individual rights because of the masses.”
Proponents like hygienist Kristi Jurney disagreed and touted it also as a low-cost and effective path to oral health.
“I have seen great results from people who have had fluoride in their water… . It’s helped prevent people from needing thousands of dollars of dental work,” she said.
Aspen native Joey Stokes noted the positive attributes of the public fluoride discussion in general.
“At the end of the day, what we want is clean water,” Stokes said. He pointed out the rise of people “spending more on organic foods” as a measure of how the citizenry is more conscious of what’s being put in their bodies.
Phyllis Bronson of Aspen said she perceives the “anger coming from the pro-fluoride” contingent as “similar to the anger of people who are pro-vaccine.” Bronson, who said she was trained as a molecular scientist, implored those in attendance to “get the data out on the table.”
Among other medical practitioners who spoke out at the district meeting were Rob Krakovitz, an Aspen doctor. Krakovitz referred to the low number of Western European countries that use fluoride. He also pointed out that the dentistry profession for years used mercury in its fillings and “never admitted it was toxic.”
He added, “The dropping of the recommended dosage of fluoride is an admission that fluoride was a problem.”
The action to which Krakovitz referred was the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ decision in April to lower its recommended fluoride level to 0.7 milligrams per liter from its prior range of 0.7 mg. to 1.2 mg/L. After being discussed at subsequent public meetings, Water & Sanitation this summer voted 3-1 to remove it from the water supply.
That’s sparked responses from both sides seen in local letters to the editor, ads, town council meetings and in the district’s board meetings. The Colorado Dental Association joined the debate recently by sponsoring pro-fluoride ads in a local newspaper. That was countered by anti-fluoride ads funded by two Snowmass Village residents.
In Colorado, 72.4 percent of the communities have “access to fluoridated water,” according to 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There’s a lot of interest and expertise out there,” opined Water & San board member Willard Humphrey on Wednesday.