Fluoride Action Network

Fluoridation sound health, fiscal policy

Source: The Republican & Herald (Pottsville) | Board member of the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy
Posted on March 2nd, 2008

For the past 60 years, one scientific study after another have proven that adding fluoride to water supplies is a safe and effective method to significantly reduce tooth decay for those who consume the water. The time is now for Pennsylvania to join other states in requiring water systems to fluoridate their supplies to the optimal level for health benefits.

As a chemical engineer who graduated from Penn State, I closely followed the debate over fluoride years ago when Battle Creek, Michigan, became one of the world’s first cities to adjust the fluoride level in its water supply. Early studies like Battle Creek’s showed that water fluoridation reduced the amount of cavities children develop in their baby teeth by as much as 60 percent and reduced tooth decay in adult teeth by nearly 35 percent.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002 reported that more than 170 million people, or 67 percent of the United States population served by public water supplies, drink water with optimal fluoride levels for preventing decay. The CDC in 2004 reported that 43 of the largest 50 cities in the U.S. have fluoridated water.

That is why I was surprised to recently learn that only 50 percent of Pennsylvanians are served by water systems with the recommended level of one part fluoride per million. I believe that water systems with 500 or more connections should have fluoride in their water supply.

It would be good public health policy. It would also be good fiscal health policy.

The average cost for a community to fluoridate its water is estimated to range from 50 cents per person in large communities to $3 per person in small communities. However, an economic analysis showed for most communities that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 or more in treatment costs.

The state Medicaid program reimburses dentists $40 for a filling, $20 for an exam and $28 for an x-ray. This is well below market prices, because Medicaid has not increased its reimbursement rates in years. Fluoridating the water supplies, which reduces the amount of cavities in patients, has the potential to save millions of dollars in Medicaid payments. That is sound fiscal policy supported by the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy.

As a businessman, I have another reason for supporting fluoridation. I entered into a confectionary manufacturing business in 1965. At that time, dentists attacked the consumption of candy using large, colored posters in their offices, saying it created cavities.

Subsequently, studies showed that three factors caused cavities: carbohydrates, bacteria, and time. Carbohydrates can come from any source, including whole wheat bread and potatoes. Bacteria are produced naturally in everyone’s mouth. It takes about 24 hours or so to initiate decay.

So those who use fluoride in that period, either through consuming fluoridated water or brushing with fluoride toothpaste, can significantly reduce the effects of tooth decay. That meant that all people, even those with a sweet tooth, could maintain good oral health by using fluoride.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized the fluoridation of drinking water as one of the ten greatest health achievements of the 20th Century. The time is now for Pennsylvania to take advantage of that achievement and improve the oral health of our residents.