Wilson County Health Council members discussed the lack of fluoride in county water systems during their regular monthly meeting on Tuesday.

The panel, which is made up of Wilson County and Lebanon Special School District health employees, Tennessee Department of Health employees and several members of the community, held a discussion about the lack of fluoride in the water supply systems with several guest including Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen, Wilson Emergency Management Agency Director John Jewell, Jim Mills representing University Medical Center, Dorie Mitchell, Leadership Wilson director; John Grant with College Hills Church of Christ, Pamela Lothridge representing UMC and William Glover with Lebanon Public Safety.

After a round-table discussion, the panel decided to take some fact-finding steps in order to address the issue that could prove to be a dental health issue with the children of Wilson County. Dr. Angela Ross from the Mid-Cumberland Regional Health Department addressed the council and answered questions regarding the health benefits of water fluoridation.

Fluoride over the years has been proven to help prevent tooth decay. Water fluoridation’s goal is to prevent tooth decay by adjusting the concentration of fluoride in public water supplies. Tooth decay (dental caries or cavities) is one of the most prevalent chronic diseases worldwide, and greatly affects the quality of life of children, particularly those of low socioeconomic status.

Fluoridation does not affect the appearance, taste, or smell of drinking water. It is normally accomplished by adding one of three compounds to the water: sodium fluoride, fluorosilicic acid, or sodium fluorosilicate.

But new studies have come up in recent years questioning the benefits of adding fluoride to water. In 2008, a panel of experts recommended Health Canada lower fluoride levels in drinking water to 0.7 mg/L to limit exposure in children and infants, who are particularly vulnerable if they ingest powdered infant formula reconstituted with fluoridated water. This level, the study showed, balances the need for dental cavity protection with the risk of dental fluorosis, which leads to staining or pitting of the teeth if too much fluoride is ingested. The Canadian Dental Association defended fluoridation, saying it benefits all residents in a community, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, education or employment.

When did area water utilities stop adding fluoride to the water supply and why? These are some of the questions the Wilson County Health Council want answers to and will take the necessary steps to get to the bottom of the lack of fluoride issue. The council plans on implementing some fact finding sessions with local water authorities to discover the reasoning behind the lack of fluoridation in Wilson County area water supplies.

The council was established in 1997 and has been working to improve the health of Wilson County residents ever since. An array of health promotion activities have been initiated by the council that includes tobacco prevention programs, physical activity promotions, nutrition education and flu vaccination promotions. Recently, a grant in the amount of $119,300 was secured by the Wilson County Health Council that has provided training, materials and equipment to implement the CATCH curriculum in the elementary and middle schools in the county.

Those serving on the council include Donna Lawson, Latoya Lewis, Mike Manning, Sheila Neal, Tammy Oliver, Melinda Platt-McCreary, Linda Swink, Dr. Crystal Vernon, Chuck Whitlock, Judy Lea, Shelly Phillips, Jeff Tunks and Carla Valdez.

Wilson County Health Council would like to expand its membership to include representatives from all of the county’s municipalities, the faith community, public safety, senior citizens, human services, the business community and anyone else who has the passion to serve the citizens of Wilson County. The goal of the Wilson County Health Council is to improve the health and safety of the county’s residents.

Wilson County Health Council meets monthly to discuss health concerns. The next meeting of the council is set for Tuesday, May 12 at 8:30 a.m. in the meeting room at McFarland Rehab Center in Lebanon. For more information, call Whitlock at 453-7315 or email him at whitlockc@wcschools.com.