Wichita’s water supply has sparked debate for decades. It’s a debate that has pitted health professionals against everyday Kansans. The issue is to fluoridate or not.
“It’s one of the most highly studied chemicals we’ve ever had,” Wichita dentist Dr. Brick Scheer said.
Dr. Scheer has worked on Wichitans’ teeth for his entire career, and he is a proponent of adding fluoride to the city’s water supply. It’s a process Dr. Scheer and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says is not only safe but beneficial.
“Fluoridating the water will eliminate approximately 25 percent of the cavities a person will have in their lifetime,” Dr. Scheer said.
Fluoridating the water supply is considered one of the ten biggest public health accomplishments by the Centers for Disease Control; however, Wichita remains one of the country’s largest cities that has turned its back on the idea. Wichita is not alone; however, Portland, Oregon has also decided not to fluoridate its water.
It’s because of views like this.
“Fluoride is a poison,” Wichitan Travis Crank said. “It is a known poison.”
Travis Crank and his supporters made their views known this summer with their Poison in the Tape Water campaign. It is a campaign that has worked in the past.
Wichita debated the issue several times, and as of now fluoridating appears to be off the table.
Wichita Vice Mayor Jeff Longwell says, “There hasn’t been any recent discussion of resurrecting the debate on fluoride.”
Fluoridating the water is something local dentists say needs to be done.
“If you’re drinking fluoridated water, then when your teeth are developing as a child, your teeth will develop with that fluoride ion incorporated into the enamel,” Dr. Scheer said.
Dr. Scheer says he can tell someone who has grown up in a community that fluoridated and someone who did not just be looking at their x-rays.
Opponents of fluoride, however, say strengthening our teeth is not reason enough to mess with the city’s water supply.
“Releasing sodium fluoride into the environment is a federal crime, yet we put it into our water supply,” Crank said.
Crank points to pictures that show toxic warning labels on large containers of sodium fluoride. Health professionals say that fluoride at low levels is completely safe. It’s an arguments crank and his supporters aren’t buying.
“The low-level distribution of a poison is still a poison,” Cranks said. “The idea is to have a cumulative effect over a long period of time. Of course, you’re not going to drink a glass of tap water and wake up a drooling idiot the next day.”
Local dentists, however say fluoride is one of the must studied chemicals in the history of the country, and they remain baffled at why Wichita has refused to see its health benefits.
“They’ve looked to see if it’s going to cause birth defects, cancer, Alzheimer’s, just a whole host of conditions and they can’t find any connection,” Dr. Scheer said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate it would cost Wichita less than 50 cents per person to add fluoride to the water.
The Wichita Sedgwick County Oral Health Coalition is working to convince leaders of the benefits of fluoride, so it looks like the debate may continue.