Fluoride was pumped into the city water for the first time in about six years on Wednesday, meaning most dental patients who have been taking prescribed fluoride should stop.
The city disrupted its fluoridation program in 2002 because of a design flaw at the new water treatment plant. Derek Clevenger, director of public works, said today that the fluoridation system’s ventilation and pump weren’t working properly and caused fumes to leach out and damage the interior of the water plant.
The fluoridation system’s problems were only a small issue compared to the many other problems with the new water plant, so the city focused on those issues first.
In 2005, after the city switched water filters and made other improvements under the recommendations of engineering firm CH2M Hill, the city planned to make raw water improvements, including the construction of a new pump house and getting settling basins ready for use again. City commissioners at that time directed city staff to get the fluoridation system operational at the same time, so city staff added that project to the raw water improvement project.
The city then discovered an oil tank buried below the site of the pump station construction, so the contractor, LaForge and Budd Construction Co., left the job site while the city remedied the contamination.
Finally LaForge was able to continue work on the raw water improvements, and the city also had improvements made to the fluoridation system.
Clevenger said the city basically replaced the entire system, including the ventilation, piping and pump. The city then had it checked by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as is required, and made minor changes suggested by KDHE.
Fluoridation of the water is welcome progress for the city’s dentists, some of whom have continued to remind city officials how important fluoride is for the developing enamel of children’s teeth.
“Most dentists, not all, but most dentists, consider it to be a good thing because it reduces the amount of decay in the population,” Dr. Ronald Finley of Parsons said on Wednesday.
Finley said when fluoride is ingested, it develops into the children’s tooth enamel before their teeth break the surface of their gums.
The fluoride makes the enamel stronger and, therefore, much more resistant to decay.
Adults get a lesser, topical benefit from the fluoride.
Finley and other dentists had prescribed fluoride to some of their patients during the time the city didn’t add it to the water. Now, Finley said those patients and their parents must stop using the fluoride, because too much of it can cause fluorosis, a discoloring of the teeth.
The city mailed notices to dentists to let them know fluoride would be added to water once again.
Finley said he has posted that notice at the doors to his office to ensure patients are notified they need to stop using fluoride on their own. He also has told them over the past several years to watch for notice of fluoridation in the Sun.
Dr. Robert Morrison of Parsons said the reintroduction of fluoride is “way past due.”
“It was a sad thing when they quit adding fluoride, and we’ve seen the effects of it in increased incidence of tooth decay and dental disease in small children,” Morrison said.
Morrison said it will take two to three years at least until dentists and their patients will see the effect of water fluoridation because it will affect children with developing teeth the most.
Despite theories that fluoridation has many bad side effects, including bone disease and even cancer, Finley told the Sun in 2005 that scientific studies in the past 50 years since water fluoridation began have shown that it is safe and promotes good dental health.
“We just have to go with the best science we have at the moment,” Finley said.
“At this point it’s been studied extensively for 50 years.”
Finley said water fluoridation has been found to be safe and effective by all of the major health organizations including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Dental Association.
Finley added on Wednesday that fluoride doesn’t affect the taste or color of water and that the city’s water treatment staff knows the proper amount of fluoride to add to the water.