TIMBERVILLE – The Town Council is considering whether to continue treating its water with fluoride, and residents and officials got an earful at a forum Monday night from dentists with opposing views.
About 40 people gathered at the Plains Elementary School auditorium to participate in the forum, which became impassioned and argumentative at times.
The fluoridation issue may be brought up at Thursday’s council meeting or at next month’s meeting, Town Manager Austin Garber said.
Lisa Syrop, a dentist with the dental health division of the Virginia Department of Health, presented voluminous information in support of fluoridation, including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Surgeon General.
David Kennedy, a San Diego dentist and former president of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology, took the opposing view. To back his case, Kennedy used a plethora of information against fluoridation, including data and citations from the American Dental Association and the Food and Drug Administration.
Each speaker disputed the evidence and conclusions the other presented, sometimes using the same reference materials in an effort to prove opposing points.
Syrop said fluoridation at “optimal levels” – between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million – reduces tooth decay by 20 to 40 percent. Timberville’s water consistently has fluoride levels at 0.90 ppm, she said.
“Fluoride, in just the right amount, improves oral health and overall health,” she said. “Over 60 years of studies and evidence-based reviews conclude that community water fluoridation is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay.”
But Kennedy countered that no “high-quality” studies have been done to prove fluoridated water’s effectiveness, and it has been linked to medical problems, including thyroid impairment and fluorosis, which is an overdose of fluoride that can lead to dental problems.
The reduction in tooth decay in the last 50 years is often credited to fluoride, Kennedy said, but it’s likely due to oral health education and increased accessibility.
‘A Public Health Issue’
Council Member Robert Blosser said both sides presented good arguments, and he hopes residents will come to the council meetings to speak their minds on the issue.
At the forum, fluoridation also was discussed in terms of cost, which Blosser said the council is not concerned with.
“It’s not a cost thing. It’s a public health issue,” he said. “It’s tough.”
He says, “This is a topic that’s very passionate with the citizens and the council. Several councilman have said they are against fluoride, and several are definitely for fluoride, so it’s going to be a very close decision Thursday.”
And on Thursday, the Timberville Town Council plans to vote on whether or not to continue water fluoridation.
Citizens will be able to make comments before the final vote is determined.