A local dentist’s inquiry into whether or not Dexter village’s water was actually fluoridated has grown into something bigger than a single dentist’s concern about public health.

Last week the village of Dexter decided to shelve plans to discuss water fluoridation in the village, which would require installation of equipment at the Dexter wastewater treatment plan, as well as at a future fifth well site on Dexter Community School property.

Village officials put the issue down citing costs – $79,000 for the four well systems now and more when the fifth well goes online. They also cited a lack of community feedback expressing interest.

Dexter Dentist Barbara Wehr will now be pushing for a petition drive and active engagement at later meetings to reopen the discussion with village officials and make visible a desire for water fluoridation that Wehr alleges does exist among village residents.

“I think it’s just how much it would cost for the equipment,” Wehr said, adding that she didn’t think ample time and opportunity had been given to discuss the matter.

“I’m going to get together with my colleagues here in Dexter and the area,” she said of her desire to pursue the issue further.

The issue has also garnered national attention. After the article published in The Dexter Leader on Dec. 25, 2008, members of a group called the Fluoride Action Network contacted the newspaper via e-mail, as well as local officials expressing their displeasure at the fact that the negative side of fluoride had not been presented. Their group, known as FAN for short, both oppose expanded efforts to offer fluoride in municipal drinking water, but push for a number of public information initiatives, including warning residents served by fluoridated systems of alleged health risks and environmental issues.

The group is an official project of the American Environmental Health Studies Project, a non-profit organized, as of May 2004.

“Fluoride has been promoted by many health agencies and enjoys a very favorable reputation as a tooth decay fighter,” said group spokesman Jason Krueger.

The recommended level for fluoride as an additive to drinking water is .7 to 1 parts per million. Dexter has .35-.38 according to water studies conducted by Wehr. Chelsea maintains 1 parts per million in its water system, according to Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Ray Schmidt.

Krueger says that the recommended level has not accounted for an alleged rise in other food and beverage products consumed by most people on a daily basis.

He added that the optimal level has never been scientifically proven, citing the Dec. 1995 Vol. 126 of the Journal American Dental Association, page 1,625.

Krueger goes on to say that the trend is actually shifting away from fluoride at the community level. FAN’s Web site has a number of communities listed as having rejected fluoridation when the matter is up to the referendum vote.

Krueger and FAN allege that fluoride is in fact a “pollutant” that in most other circumstances is classified as such, except when it is being introduced into public drinking water sources via controlled methods in a sanctioned facility.

Fluorosilicic Acid, as fluoride is less commonly known as, is actually a byproduct of the phosphate, or fertilizer industry, which provides the bulk of municipal fluoride sold as an industrial byproduct.

Krueger alleged that fluoride is a health concern for people in a number of cases, including those with kidney based illness or weakness.

“In 2006, the National Research Council reported that fluoride (at “optimal” levels) can post risks to the thyroid gland, diabetics, kidney patients, high water drinkers and others and can severely damage children’s teeth,” Krueger said. “At least three panel members advise avoiding fluoridated water.”

He also added that the National Kidney Foundation has asserted that fluoride could be harmful to those with Chronic Kidney Disease, noting their removal from a list of agencies and organizations that approve of the ADA’s stance on supporting fluoride.

A report issued by the NKF cites a several studies, two of which focus on fluoride. One of the studies, published in the Oxford Journals, does show a detrimental effect on someone with CKD, although the basis study states that the individual was not in the United States and was living in an area with 4 parts per million of fluoride, which is the threshold targeted by organizations like the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency, among others, for toxicity.

Wehr took issue with the cited studies, saying that many dialysis machines used tap water.

“Hospitals used tap water in many procedures in the 80s, but that’s no longer the case,” she said. “It’s no longer an issue, because purified water is used in those cases.”

Wehr wasn’t alone in voicing support of fluoride in municipal water.

Chelsea dentist Kelly Ann Scherr says she has heard a lot of the controversies around fluoride, but generally sticks to where the ADA stands on the issue.

“That research has not been proven in the U.S,” she said in response to the NKF cited study of fluoride and CKD.

She doesn’t pay too much mind to groups like FAN. “You’re always going to have your off the beaten tracks groups who are against fluoride or mercury or any kind of product.”

No study that she has seen has demonstrated conclusively a detriment to the health of a public in an area with water fluoridation at the recommended thresholds.

“There have been some cases out west where people consuming too much fluoride have fluorosis or mottling of their teeth,” Scherr said. “I learned in dental school that areas in the western states with mountain water, if it’s over 1 parts per million, have it.”

Scherr says that she has not seen any epidemic of fluorosis in Chelsea, even though the city has been adding the substance to water served to its customers longer than it has chlorinated the water to treat for bacteria, according to the water plant’s superintendent.

Scherr’s patients age 2 to 10 years of age are not being harmed by fluoride supplements that she prescribes them if their family lives in the surrounding townships outside of the reach of Chelsea water supply.

“Fluoride has to be ingested into the body to be incorporated into enamel,” Scherr said when asked if there is an alternative to municipal fluoridation that addresses FAN’s concerns and continues to provide the plus side of fluoridation.

“Fluoride toothpaste can lay some surface fluoride irons down, but it’s not a source of incorporating fluoride into the teeth.”

Fellow Dexter dentist Brent Kolb, of Dexter Family Dentistry says he is standing on the side of the issue with the most scientific evidence behind it at the moment.

“As health care professionals, we are required by law and a code of ethics to treat people using evidence based knowledge,” Kolb said. “Scientific peer reviewed research regarding water fluoridation supports it’s use, in moderation, to prevent dental caries.”

Kolb says he provides free home test kits for fluoride and encourages people to figure out how much they’re consuming on a daily basis.

“Everything in moderation,” he said. “People need to consult their physician, pediatrician, and/or dentist; gather all pertinent expert information regarding their health, and make the best decision for themselves and their family.”

Krueger agrees on the point of consulting a physician and getting opinions that don’t come from professionals with the initials “DDS” next to their names.

He pointed to an ADA interim document on mixing baby formula with tap water. The ADA states that a study conducted in 2006 showed that reconstituted baby formula and tap water could be a recipe for a “greater than optimal” intake of fluoride.

Kolb recommends visiting the ADA at www.ada.org, the American Pediatric Association at www.aap.org, and the American Pediatric Dental Association at www.aapd.org.

The Fluoride Action Network can be found at www.fluoridealert.org. The topic of fluoride and public health is broad and specific to an interested individual’s gender, age and other unique circumstances.