For years, elementary school teachers throughout Delaware Valley School District have reached into their desks just after morning announcements, pulled out bulk-sized bottles of prescription medicine and dispensed pills to students.
But the practice of dispensing fluoride tablets — the supplement for kids who drink well water at home — will likely stop in November.
“The fluoride tablet policy has run its course. We should get out of the business that somewhat contradicts our drug policy,” said school board President Sue Casey.
The zero-tolerance drug policy prohibits the possession, use or distribution of prescription drugs during school hours or on district property.
With the pills, kids may be getting too much fluoride — another reason the school board plans to rescind the policy at its November board meeting.
About 1,000 Delaware Valley students, kindergarten through fifth grade, take a daily fluoride tablet.
Many cities add fluoride to tap water to help prevent tooth decay in children. Fluoride is incorporated into developing tooth enamel from the age of 6 months to about 16 years.
Fluoride is found in reconstituted juice bottled in New York or other places where the water has fluoride, said Dingmans Ferry dentist Dr. Gates Parker.
“We have no way of knowing how much they are getting,” he said.
Parker began doing dental check-ups on students at the Dingman-Delaware schools 25 years ago. The fluoride tablet policy was in effect before then.
“I write the prescription, they dispense it like a pharmacist,” Parker said.
A child exposed to other sources of fluoride could get too much, said Parker. Too much causes white and brown discoloration in the teeth.
“Most of the schools don’t do it anymore,” said Delaware Valley school nurse Ellen Orben.
Figures on how many schools in Pennsylvania or nationally engage in the practice were not immediately available.
“Why are we doing this as a school? This should be up to parents and their dentist. This is really a parent’s obligation,” Orben said.
Parker encourages parents to seek a fluoride supplement through their family dentist where a more individualized dose can be recommended.