City leaders are considering a new proposal that would cut costs by halting the fluoridation of city water, an idea that has drawn sharply divided responses from local residents and dentists.

A consultant’s report concluded that adding fluoride to the local water supply costs the city about $1 million each year. With a $43 million budget gap estimated for the next fiscal year, all options are on the table, but some dentists warn the move could end up costing residents more in the long run.

Sacramento District Dental Association president Dr. Terry Jones said fluoridation is essential for healthy teeth, arguing that cancelling the program would mean “more visits to the emergency room, more families in pain, more money spent on dental treatments that could have been prevented.”

Fluoridation “hardens the tooth, makes it more resistant to cavities,” he added.

Opponents of fluoridation are hoping the budget woes act as the catalyst for finally pulling the plug on the controversial program.

Dr. Jeanette Okazaki points out the toxic nature of fluoride — “It is a poison,” she said – and argues the health of children will improve if the practice stops.

“They did a toxicological study that shows children have double the amount of lead that’s acceptable,” Okazaki said.

INSERT: Some dentists say the benefits of fluoridation outweigh the costs, but others say the practice is just outright unhealthy.