DOVER — It was a toothy discussion as James Williamson, executive director with the New Hampshire Dental Society, and Puneet Kochlar, DMD and president of the group’s local chapter, met with Foster’s editorial board on Thursday.
The fluoride debate, regulations for dentists and dental hygienists and cosmetic dentistry were all on the table during the hourlong discussion.
Williamson said the N.H. Dental Society has been instrumental in the defeat of two pieces of legislation in the state Legislature regarding fluoride in drinking water. One would include a warning label on municipal water bills concerning the use of fluoridated water with baby formula.
In addition the group, which represents roughly 80 percent of the dentists in the state, has created a website to address the issue of fluoride in drinking water, www.fluoridefactsnh.com.
“It contains information on what we believe to be the facts on fluoride,” Williamson said.
“We believe it’s our commitment to educate the public on what fluoride is doing for them,” Kochlar added.
In 1962, the government set a standard range for the distribution of fluoride into drinking water supplies, from .7 milligrams to 1.2 milligrams per liter, depending on the climate and water intake of the community using the drinking water.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services recently proposed the range be done away with and a universal limit be set at .7 milligrams per liter of water. But while the department has recommended the limit, nothing can be legally set as a standard unless it’s approved by the EPA.
Fluoride has been used in drinking water supplies across the country for decades as a way to help prevent tooth decay.
The cities of Dover and Portsmouth have recently followed the recommendations by the state Department of Health and Human Services to reduce the levels of fluoride added to their municipal waters.
Opponents of the practice question the use of fluoride in drinking water in any amount.
The two men defended the practice on Thursday as a economical method of reducing tooth decay for all.
“For every one dollar spent on fluoride you save 37 dollars in dental costs,” Williamson said.
Williamson said the dentistry group has also been working to defeat a move by a dental hygienists’ group attempting to move toward self-regulation. The two dental workers currently fall under the same regulations.
“Dentistry and hygienics works best as a team,” Williamson said.
And those teeth whitening stores at the mall?
Kochlar said those types are services are very different from what a dentist can provide and that the stores are very much do-it-yourself, with the guidance of the person working there.
“Anything a dentist or a hygienist does is regulated,” he said.