GREENCASTLE, Pa. — A longstanding program of providing fluoride tablets to elementary school students whose parents request it has ended in the Greencastle-Antrim School District.
Bob Crider, the district’s chief education officer, said the decision was a matter of supply and cost, as well as concern about overapplication of the mineral in young children. Discontinuing the program also follows suit with what many other districts have done.
“When we ordered this summer, we found out the provider could no longer dispense fluoride in bulk,” Crider said. “We could continue ordering from them, but at about quadruple the price.”
Crider said the district normally spent around $1,000 each year to provide the fluoride to students from kindergarten to sixth grade. Parents could request or decline the fluoride. Crider said the pills have been provided to about 60 percent of the student population in that age group over the past few years.
The fluoride program began many years ago, when many drank from wells as a way to help fight tooth decay. Some public-water systems now add fluoride, but Greencastle and Antrim Township don’t fluoridate, Crider said.
“The past three to five years, from the district nurses and the dental hygienist, there’s been ongoing discussion about fluoride tablets and what school districts are doing,” he said. “We’re hearing that there’s some concern about the tablets because you never quite know if you’re overfluoridating. They may be taking a daily vitamin or using a toothpaste with fluoride or getting a fluoride varnish at the dentist. Many districts are stepping away from the tablets.”
The Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District doesn’t provide the fluoride-tablet program. Inquiries to other Franklin County, Pa., school districts weren’t immediately returned Monday.
Crider said the Pennsylvania Department of Health has confirmed that many districts have discontinued similar programs because of evidence that students are being treated in other ways.
“Our recommendation is be to sure that your children brush daily with a toothpaste that contains fluoride and/or that they use a fluoride rinse,” Crider told parents in a letter.
He said the district will continue to be vigilant about dental health and deal with individual issues.