The good news is that during 2008 there was not a single case of West Nile Virus identified in either man or beast in Liberty County. Haley Anderson can stop worrying for now. Hopefully this infectious disease will not reappear for a long time in this area.

The bad news is that dental caries (cavities in the teeth) is becoming more common and more severe. Some 50 plus years ago the writer decided to carry out an objective study to try to determine what the biggest health problem was in this county. Every school child in the county was examined and the single biggest problem was bad tooth decay. Almost all grade school children had cavities, all high school children had tooth decay and there were children graduating from high school who had lost all their teeth. At that time there was no resident dentist in the county and dental care was a rather hit or miss affair.

A resident dentist was finally recruited who actively tried to preserve teeth (preventative dentistry) which helped somewhat, but widespread tooth decay was quite evident. About 38 years ago it was possible to obtain equipment through the state that would fluoridate the Chester water supply, and the equipment was installed at very little cost to the community. At that time it was ascertained that our public water supply, both from Lake Elwell and various springs and wells, was lacking in naturally occurring fluoride which has been demonstrated to be essential for good teeth that resist cavity formation. A significant and dramatic decrease in tooth decay was well demonstrated. Children began to graduate from high school with no fillings, and no more toothless graduates were noted.

As many readers will recall, a considerable effort was put forth to replace the worn out fluoridation equipment. This effort was defeated. At the time it was thought that the big water project the Federal Government was planning from Lake Elwell was projected to include fluoridation along the Hi-Line from Tiber Dam to Rocky Boy. The project has barely been started, and may not be completed for many years.

In the mean time, what has happened to dental health in this area? Dr. Martin reports that within two years of discontinuing fluoridation of water older adults began to demonstrate a significant increase in cavities. They were primarily at the base of teeth where the gum line had receded as it usually does with advancing age. This is requiring expensive and sometimes difficult restoration. Tooth decay in children has increased more recently. Taking vitamins with fluoride helps, but it does not work as well as fluoridated water washing over the teeth everyday. Toothpaste with fluoride is widely used, but it also is not as effective as fluoridated water.

Extensive studies have demonstrated that optimal levels of fluoride in the water is safe, it cannot be detected by taste or color, and is well tolerated by cookware and drinking glasses. Studies in California have demonstrated that the financial savings in not having to provide dental care for people on welfare will more than pay for the cost of fluoridation for the entire community. This is public health improvement needed in this community.