WORCESTER– Worcester Citizens for Total Health, the group that is fighting a proposal to fluoridate the city’s water, wanted a debate.
Its members wanted a debate because they have been frustrated by the refusal of fluoride proponents to engage them.
So out of a sense of frustration, the group videotaped a recent presentation by the Health Foundation of Central Massachusetts and attempted to refute some of its arguments point by point at a forum Saturday night at Clark University.
Deborah Moore, of the anti-fluoride group, said the forum had been in the works for more than three months and that a number of efforts were made to get pro-fluoride speakers to agree to participate.
“This is typical of what has been happening for a number of years across the country. They consider this issue not debatable,” Ms. Moore said. “We wanted to make it the first debate ever.”
Ms. Moore’s comments contradicted those of Janice B. Yost, the executive director of the Health Foundation, who said last week that she only found out about the invitation the previous week and was unable to find any speakers on such short notice.
About 75 people attended the forum at Jefferson Academic Center, which featured talks by a leading Canadian dentist and a chemistry professor from St. Lawrence University.
The dentist, Dr. Hardy Limeback, also a college professor and the past president of the Canadian Association for Dental Research, is an anti-fluoride convert. Dr. Limeback said it was only when he began seriously investigating the argument of anti-fluoride activists that he realized they were right. For years, he said, he had been promoting the use of fluoride with his patients and students
“I’m one of the few dentists who has spoken out against water fluoridation,” he said.
[Paul] Connett, the St. Lawrence chemistry professor, said there is a reason for that. Dentists, he said, receive a narrow education that does not expose them to information about the harmful effects of fluoride on the whole person. Dentists, he said, look at a person as a set of teeth.
It was a characterization with which Dr. Limeback did not disagree.
Fluoride proponents in Worcester are citing the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and two successive U.S. surgeons general endorsing fluoridation as part of their argument in favor of the November city ballot initiative.
At the Quinsigamond forum Tuesday, Herschel S. Horowitz, a consultant for the American Dental Association, said fluoride accounts for most of the dramatic reduction in tooth decay in the United States since the early 1900s.
In Massachusetts, 135 communities get fluoride in all or part of their water systems.
In Toronto, where the water is fluoridated, Dr. Limeback said, fluorosis is a common occurrence among his patients. The white spots on teeth that indicate fluorosis are evident even with patients who are so diligent with their dental hygiene that they have never had a cavity, he said.
Mr. Connett said a number of countries, many in Europe, do not allow fluoridation and that the incidence of tooth decay is roughly equal to that of the United States.
Where the United States falls short, he said, is in its poorer populations, which have the worst dental hygiene in the Western world.
In a reference to the “Got Teeth? Get Fluoride” advertising campaign in Worcester, Mr. Connett came up with a slogan of his own:
“Got Brains? Avoid Fluoride.”