Smile, Dover. You’re finally quaffing fluoridated drinking water.
On Monday, you joined residents of Wilmington, Newark, Milford, Lewes and Selbyville who have been guzzling the formula of one part fluoride solution per million gallons of water for about two decades now.
There are now nine fluoridation facilities around Dover, said Scott Keonig, Dover’s director of public works.
The fluoride comes in 15-gallon drums. “There’s a siphon line that goes to a chemical injection pump,” Keonig said. “As the well runs, the pump sends the flow through the pipe and injects a fixed quantity of the chemical into the flow. It happens quickly, but it’s effective.”
Studies show that, in the right amount, fluoride strengthens teeth and prevents cavities.
“It’s been demonstrated to be a good benefit with children’s dental health,” said Ed Halleck, program administrator in the office of drinking water at the state’s Division of Public Health. “It reduces cavities. The American Dental Association endorsed it as safe and effective for preventing tooth decay.”
It wasn’t always that way. Only after a dentist named Frederick S. McKay observed the brown-mottled teeth of many residents in a Colorado town where he set up shop early last century did dentists first start to realize the effects of fluoride.
McKay eventually realized he was seeing what too much fluoride could do to teeth. Though unpleasant to look at, the teeth with mottled enamel were much stronger than teeth that were not treated with fluoride. It took decades, however, before researchers discovered the proper balance of fluoride and water that would strengthen but not stain teeth.
According to the American Dental Association, more than 360 million people worldwide drink fluoridated water, and about 175 million do so in the United States.
Dover’s $140,000 conversion of its 11,000 water hookups is part of a statewide blitz to comply with a 1998 state law that required all Delaware municipalities to fluoridate water supplies. That same year, the U.S. Public Health Service urged the expansion of the fluoridation of water supplies.
Georgetown and Townsend began fluoridating water supplies in 1994 and 1996, respectively. Delmar and New Castle joined more recently. Camden-Wyoming, Felton and Clayton saved money because the towns had enough naturally occurring fluoride. Seaford and Smyrna will begin fluoridation soon.
Reach Victor Greto at 324-2832 or firstname.lastname@example.org.