There seems to be little argument that fluoridation of public water supply is one of the greatest public health success stories of the past three-quarters of a century — except in Ocala City Hall.
The city’s water resources chief, Sean Lanier, has a different take. Lanier recently recommended the city stop adding fluoride to its water supply, citing evidence that it can be harmful to our health. He cited increased incidents of dental fluorosis, which can stain teeth, or skeletal fluorosis, which can damage bones and joints, causing pain and increasing the risk of fractures. Excess fluoride also has ties to thyroid and neurological problems, among other issues, according to the studies Lanier used to build his case.
The city’s Utility Advisory Board listened last month and agreed unanimously to support the fluoridation stoppage. Now it is in the hands of the City Council.
But while Lanier and the utility board think Ocala, after 63 years, no longer needs fluoride in its water, there is a long and growing list of experts who disagree — strongly. Those would include the Florida Dental Association, the Marion County Health Department, the Florida Health Department, the American Fluoridation Society and a litany of local dentists.
“The Florida Department of Health in Marion County strongly supports the fluoridation of community water systems in our county,” wrote Mark Lander, the county’s chief health officer. “Fluoridation is the most cost-effective means of reducing tooth decay and is an ideal public health measure where everyone benefits, touching all classes no matter of socioeconomic status. Oral health care has been identified through Marion County community health assessments as a priority issue and the benefit of fluoride in decreasing tooth decay in children and adults has been documented over many years of study.”
That’s a pretty strong endorsement for continuing with fluoridation. And there’s more. Consider the words of local dentist Dr. Suzanne Thiems-Heflin.
“As a pediatric dentist, I can tell you that the patients that I see that have lived their entire lives on the fluoridated water management system here, they have very few cavities,” she told the City Council on Tuesday. “But the kids that live out in the country on wells that don’t have the benefit of fluoridation have lots of cavities and have lots of oral health problems.”
So far, the recommendation to end fluoridation is just that, a recommendation. Lanier and his bosses are asking the City Council to rescind the ordinance requiring fluoridation of the water supply, but that must be approved by the City Council.
Currently the city ordinance requires fluoridation at 1.0 parts per million, while most of the country goes with 0.7 ppm. The council could just adjust that portion of the ordinance, if it wants.
After hearing from dentists and others at Tuesday’s council meeting — and it was not even on the agenda — the City Council wisely decided to hold a workshop to delve into the issue more deeply before making a decision, which the city staff hopes to get next month.
There is no question our teeth are stronger and healthier as a result of fluoridation. Putting an end to a proven healthy practice needs study and skepticism by the council. Lanier and his colleagues say fluoride in our water is unhealthy. We say prove it beyond any doubt before doing away with it.
*Original editorial online at https://www.ocala.com/opinion/20190421/editorial-fluoride-debate-demands-skepticism