As the city of Palestine considers eliminating fluoride from residents’ tap water as a cost-saving measure, the American Dental Association thinks it would be a bad idea.
Palestine Public Works Deputy Director Felipe Garcia told the Palestine City Council earlier this week that the city is not required to put fluoride into its water and should stop doing so.
The city would save about $15,000 a year, he said.
The city’s inspection shows there are very few nearby cities that provide fluoride water to its residents, and 97 percent of Western Europe has rejected water fluoridation, Garcia said.
While the ADA recommends .7 milligrams per liter of water, the city, with the fluoride chemical, only provides .6.
“You need fluoride on your teeth, not in your stomach,” Garcia said, and added it is not really effective for the people who brush their teeth, saying 95 percent of toothpaste contains fluoride.
Councilman Steve Presley remembers when the city chose to add the fluoride chemical into its water several years ago, and dentists back then said it would be beneficial to the community.
“We need to contact our dentists to get their opinion,” Presley said. “Their thinking was this would reduce dental bills, and that this would put (some) dentists out of work.”
Councilman Doug Smith researched the fluoride issue, and what he found told him they should not do away with it.
Garcia and Water Plant Supervisor Michael Norgaard disagreed with the ADA’s opinions.
The ADA maintains that fluoride water prevents tooth decay.
According to the ADA, an estimated 51 million school hours are lost each year due to dental-related illness, and one study has shown that children who live in communities without fluoridation are three times more likely to end up in the hospital to undergo dental surgery.
Fluoride protects all ages against cavities and studies show that fluoride in community water systems prevent at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste, the ADA says in some of its literature.
For 70 years, the best available scientific evidence consistently indicates that community water fluoridation is safe and effective. It has been endorsed by numerous U.S. surgeon generals, and more than 100 health organizations, according to the ADA.
When it comes to the cost of treating dental disease, everyone pays. Not just those who need treatment, but the entire community, the ADA wrote in a report they did on fluoridated water.
The result is higher health insurance premiums and higher taxes. The average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate a water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling. For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs, the report stated.
Presley thanked the two city employees for bringing this cost-saving proposal to the council, saying this is what the council wants from the employees.
“We have got to weigh the value to the community to the cost to the city,” he said.
No decision needed to be made right away because there are enough fluoride chemicals to serve the residents for the next month or two, Norgaard said.
Impoverished parts of the city now have to buy bottled water for their infants because the fluoride water is not good for their young children, Norgaard said.
He also pointed to a University of Harvard study, in which 8,000 children who drank water with fluoride were shown to have lower intelligent quotas than those who did not by seven percent.
The question Presley raised was whether the council should believe in the University of Harvard study or should it listen to the dental professionals in the community.
Councilman Mitchell Jordan agreed and said how the University of Harvard study was conducted is a big question.
However, even with continuing to spend the $15,000 to add fluoride to its water, the water is still below what the ADA recommends, Garcia said.
The council removed the item from its council meeting, hoping they can talk to professionals in the dental community to get their input.
“Let’s move on,” said Mayor Bob Herrington, saying they had a lot more to talk about.