The battle over fluoride in Brevard County’s water shows no signs of ending anytime soon.
Local dentists, backed by major national health groups, are mounting a preemptive campaign encouraging the City of Titusville to continue adding fluoride to its drinking water, after the county abruptly halted the practice in Mims earlier this month.
County utilities ended water fluoridation at the Mims Water Treatment Plant on May 13, nine days after a snap vote by the Brevard County Commission approved the request by District 1 Commissioner Rita Pritchett with no public notice or debate.
The decision, impacting about 8,000 residents, occurred without advance notice on the meeting agenda, effectively shutting out the public and experts from weighing in.
Dr. Angela McNeight, president of the Brevard County Dental Society, said the organization wants to ensure the same doesn’t happen in nearby Titusville, which controls water for over 22,000 North Brevard customers.
“We want to make sure they understand the importance and research of maintaining fluoride in the water,” McNeight said.
Titusville, like most Brevard cities, adds fluoride to its drinking water at levels recommended by public health agencies to prevent cavities and other forms of tooth decay.
Following the vote by the County Commission, a City of Titusville representative said ending the program was “not under consideration at this time.”
Nevertheless, the society, which represents 163 Brevard County dentists, has mounted a letter-writing campaign to Titusville leaders and plans to attend next week’s City Council meeting to make sure the city knows where they stand.
“We want to be there to be as a resource, and share our experience on the background of the impact that removing water fluoridation can have,” McNeight said.
The group’s effort is being backed by state and national health organizations, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Dental Association and the Florida Dental Association.
A May 20 letter to Titusville Mayor Dan Diesel from the CDC summarized research showing the safety and benefits of water fluoridation, while a separate letter from the ADA, also dated May 20, encouraged the city to continue its fluoridation program.
“Through decades of research and 75 years of practical experience, fluoridation of public water supplies has been responsible for dramatically improving the public’s oral health,” said the letter, signed by ADA Executive Director Dr. Kathleen T. O’Loughlin.
McNeight hoped support from national industry groups would help spotlight the issue for city leaders.
“These conversations are extremely important,” McNeight said. “We wanted to make sure they were hearing support from not only local dentists and our dental society, but on a national level to see the importance of their discussions and decisions.”
The Brevard County Dental Society weighed in frequently during the months-long debate over whether to halt the addition of fluoride in the City of Melbourne’s water supply in 2019. The city ultimately decided to continue the program.
By contrast, McNeight said, the snap decision by the County Commission allowing Pritchett to end fluoridation at the county-run facility in Mims caught members by surprise.
McNeight said the society has asked the county to maintain the fluoridation equipment at the Mims plant, in the hopes it would reopen the issue for debate.
That so far hasn’t happened.
“I’ve asked for personal meetings” with the county commissioners, McNeight said. “I haven’t heard back from anyone.”
A change.org petition started by the organization to bring back fluoride in Mims had 374 signatures Friday.
The longer the machines stay shut off, she said, the more likely the area will begin to see rising rates of cavities and other conditions.
“The research shows that when cities have stopped providing community water fluoridation, cavity rates have increased 50% to as much as 146% in just a 3 to 5-year period,” McNeight said.
“For some of these children in the Mims community, this is the only preventative dental care they will be receiving.”
As a dental student at the University of Florida, McNeight said, she treated extreme cases of tooth decay that required extensive care. The worst cases often came from areas of Florida that did not have community water fluoridation, she said.
“I would hate to see that in my home county.”