The dental debate rages on.
Ridgeland is considering reintroducing fluoride to its drinking water system. But the Town Council’s decision may come down to cost rather than the pros and cons of the chemical additive which many believe helps prevent tooth decay.
The town discontinued fluoridation in the mid-80s to cut costs at the water treatment plant. The chemicals are fairly expensive and the process is labor intensive, Town Administrator Jason Taylor said at Thursday evening’s council meeting.
Ridgeland dentist Earl Bostick appeared before the Town Council to plead the case for adding fluoride to the town’s drinking water.
“We have all heard the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” he said.
“That is true with medical (and) dental … problems that occur in our society. However, my concern is water fluoridation as it relates to the prevention of tooth decay.”
Fifty or 60 years ago, fluoride was introduced to many water systems in the United States and around the world. It was hotly debated then and has continued to attract intense study and argument.
While some say tooth decay is a disease of poverty, hunger and poor diet and can’t be fixed with fluoride, others contend it’s a naturally occurring mineral that has been proved to prevent and reverse tooth decay.
“I can look in a child’s mouth and say if he grew up in a fluoridated community,” Bostick said.
Howard Duvall, executive director of the Municipal Association of South Carolina, said Friday the “vast majority of water systems in the state” fluoridate.
But, he said, some communities along the coast “have to actually remove it because fluoride occurs naturally there. It’s one of those government regulations where you can’t have too much of it.”
Bostick was joined at the Ridgeland Town Council meeting by Lillie Hall of the local S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control office, Mary Wrighten of the Department of Social Services, and William Singleton, superintendent of the Jasper County School District.
Hall said grants are available annually for administering fluoridation programs. Ridgeland would have to pay for the chemicals.
Taylor estimated that fluoride would cost about $6,000 plus about $30 a day for monitoring and testing.
About two thirds of the public drinking water systems in the nation add fluoride, including Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, where it’s been infused since around 1965, said Dean Moss, the agency’s director.
Fluoride continues to be controversial, however. Too much can be poisonous. Many communities, including Seattle and Redding, Calif., have held elections on whether to add the chemical, and European countries are restricting its use or studying it, including France, Switzerland, Ireland and Belgium.