It was with great distress that I have followed the decision by the Poughkeepsie Joint Water Board to remove fluoride from the water supply. The introduction of fluoridated water a generation ago had a huge impact in decreasing cavities and promoting dental health. Fluoridation of public water systems began in 1945 and has resulted in a 40 percent to 60 percent decrease in caries prevalence in primary teeth and a 50 percent to 70 percent caries reduction in permanent teeth in fluoridated water communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has called water fluoridation one of the great achievements of the 20th century. Evidence accumulated from long-term use of fluoride has demonstrated that the cost of oral health care for children can be reduced by as much as 50 percent. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, in its policy statement of 2007, said: “Recent data still shows caries reduction of approximately 25 percent, without significant enamel fluorosis, when domestic water supplies are fluoridated at an optimal level. It went on to add: “A large body of literature supports the incorporation of optimal fluoride levels in drinking water supplies. … Use of fluorides for the prevention and control of caries is documented to be both safe and highly effective. … Optimizing fluoride levels in water supplies is an ideal public health measure because it is effective and inexpensive and does not require conscious daily cooperation from individuals.”
Yet, despite this definitive literature, there are too many Web sites and “activist” groups quoting their opinions and junk science to reverse this vital public health success. The current local decision is based on so-called “research” questioning side effects of fluoride. Unfortunately, most this “research” is of poor quality and is simply the work of activists with a cause. Much like the “research” linking vaccines to autism, it is of no real scientific value. There is no question too much fluoride can and does cause staining of teeth. That is why we must be certain the fluoride supplementation is optimal. We must monitor our children so they do not eat fluoridated toothpaste, swallow oral fluoride rinses or consume fluoridated bottled water in areas where the compound is present in public supplies. There is no evidence it causes all of the vague problems and disorders attributed to it by the activists. It seems, in our culture, some outside agency must cause every bad event, and these activists will not rest until our public health is irreparably damage by their fanaticism and fear-mongering.
Groups back use
Every medical body – including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry – strongly recommend adding fluoride to the water supply. Our county health commissioner has added his voice to oppose the decision of the water board. Last week, the Department of Pediatrics at Vassar Brothers Medical Center passed a resolution condemning the water board’s action and urging the reintroduction of fluoride. Who should you believe, the entire medical, dental and government health communities, or the ranting of a few activists who will never allow actual facts to change their beliefs? We should clearly focus our energy on the removal of lead and other contaminants in our water supply that are definitively known to be dangerous and not be pressured into removing a compound that has saved millions of teeth and decreased the pain and suffering of children. The result of this removal will be an epidemic of cavities and lost teeth, particularly in the poor children of our region. This is a political decision, not a medical one. It has no valid scientific support. Medical decisions made by politicians have a long history of failure. Let us rectify this one by reversing the water board and promoting dental health in our children.
Dr. Herschel R. Lessin is vice president and director of clinical research at The Children’s Medical Group in Poughkeepsie. Lessin writes a bi-weekly column for the Families section of the Sunday Poughkeepsie Journal.