Following a brief discussion at their June 17 meeting, the Wenham Board of Health plans to investigate the practice of fluoridating the town’s water supply.
Although the final decision on fluoride would ultimately rest with Wenham’s voters, board members said they want to be up to date about fluoridate alongside the pros and cons of the practice.
No individual resident has raised the issue to the board, but member Gerald Donnellan included the topic of fluoridation as part of the meeting’s agenda.
Stressing he had “no opinion on it either way,” Donnellan noted fluoridation has become a hot topic in neighboring Massachusetts communities, including Rockport and Topsfield among others.
According to the DPH Office of Oral Health, numerous benefits come with a fluoridated water supply. They include “fewer and less severe cavities, decreased need for fillings and tooth extractions, and reduced pain associated with tooth decay.”
A recent CDC report called fluoridation one of the “ten great public health achievements” of the last century and pinpoints fluoridation of public water in reducing tooth decay.
Opponents to the practice say individuals should not be forced to consume fluoride in the public water supply and excess amounts are potentially toxic.
Wenham Water Superintendent Erik Mansfield said the town has fluoridated for decades. Recently, the water department adopted revised federal regulations which reduced the total concentration of fluoride from 1 part per million to .7 parts per million in drinking water.
Wenham’s water system consists of two ground wells, which support a majority of the town. A small portion of the town is connected into the Beverly water system, which also fluoridates, near the Gordon College campus.
Board member Andrew Ting noted Wenham residents are likely keep themselves and their families abreast of proper oral hygiene, especially compared to areas of the country without easy access to dental care or education.
“In Wenham, my guess is 99 percent of kids who are supposed to brush their teeth probably do,” he said. “It’s very hard to buy toothpaste without fluoride in it.”
Ting and Alyson Preston, board chair, said they’d conduct further research on the topic for discussion at a future meeting.