Any local dentist could tell you — Shelbyville children are being neglected. Luckily, the neglect wasn’t intentional nor was it permanent, and the long-term effects may not be anything more than a cavity or two.

For several months now, the water leaving the Shelbyville treatment plant has been leaving without fluoride, that secret ingredient of good dental health.

“What we ran into this year were equipment problems,” said David Crowell, the general manager for Shelbyville Power and Water. “The fluoride was coming from China. We were not able to feed the right dosage, so we suspended the program rather than causing a health hazard.”

Fluoride is derived from fluorine, the 13th most abundant element, which is released into the environment naturally in both water and air. According to the American Dental Health Society, “Good scientific evidence supports the use of community water fluoridation and the use of fluoride dental products for preventing tooth decay for both children and adults.

“Children and adults who are at low risk of dental decay can stay cavity-free through frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride. This is best gained by drinking fluoridated water and using a fluoride toothpaste twice daily.”

While not mandated by law, fluoride has been added to public water supplies for more than 50 years.

“We are going to continue fluoridating the water,” said Crowell. “Everybody thinks we’ve stopped and we’re not going to start it back, but we are.”

A grant is paying for the new equipment and its installation, and the water department found a domestic supplier of fluoride as well.

“The grant will pay 100 percent of all of the machinery,” he said. “We’re probably another month away from getting that installed and we should be back up and running with our fluoride.”

Not everyone believes fluoride should be added to the water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, little more than half of the U.S population receives fluoridated water and there are several groups lobbying to have it removed completely.

“I would advise against fluoridation… Side-effects cannot be excluded … In Sweden, the emphasis nowadays is to keep the environment as clean as possible with regard to pharmacologically active and, thus, potentially toxic substances,” wrote Dr. Arvid Carlsson, co-winner of the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2000, on a web site called

According to the American Dental Association, fluoride is most effective when it is applied topically — via a fluoridated toothpaste — and ingested, through water. But with more and more people drinking bottled water, some people are questioning the efficacy of fluoride in the water at all.

Crowell said he has never had a request to stop fluoridation.

“It’s not mandatory,” he said. “It’s up to local water board and our board has confirmed that they want to continue adding fluoride. I’ve sat in on state meetings where both sides were presented. The dental association wants fluoride continued and the CDC says it’s still a safe method of getting fluoride to children.”