THE N.H. HOUSE of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on HB 192 — a state-mandated ban that would make New Hampshire the first state to abolish fluoridation in water, putting at risk the oral health of nearly 300,000 Granite Staters.
Water fluoridation is the most cost-effective method of delivering fluoride to all members of a community, regardless of age, education or income. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) both identify fluoridation as a best practice for preventing tooth decay and infection for children up to age 12, preventing dental problems later in life. In fact, the CDC proclaimed community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Even with the widespread availability of fluoride from toothpaste, studies show that community water fluoridation prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults. Fluoride occurs naturally in nearly all water, but naturally occurring fluoride usually does not exist in volumes sufficient to prevent tooth decay and cavities.
For this reason, 75 percent of Americans drink water in which safe levels of fluoride (0.7mg/L) have been added.
Ask your local dentist, and he or she will tell you that fluoride is a safe, proven way to strengthen teeth and prevent tooth decay and cavities. Yet, at a time when more and more states and communities are fluoridating water to protect their public health, New Hampshire is being asked to do the very opposite by individuals spreading pseudo-science and misinformation.
The cost-savings of community water fluoridation are also well-documented. For every $1 invested in community water fluoridation, $32.19 per capita will be saved in dental treatment costs. Conversely, hundreds of studies conducted since 1940 have shown that the volume of dental decay increased dramatically in situations in which fluoridation was halted.
Recent studies also have demonstrated significant increases in Medicaid dental costs in communities that removed fluoride from drinking water. If this bill passes, our state inevitably will see considerable increases in oral decay, dental-related expenses and Medicaid spending.
Under state law, each New Hampshire community votes on whether or not to add fluoride to its public water supply. Likewise, each community has the right to vote to eliminate it from its water supply. HB 192, however, is a state mandate that would abolish local control over this issue, overriding the rights of municipal voters and forcing them to abolish fluoridation.
Advocates of this dangerous legislation complain that efforts to halt fluoridation at the local level are time-consuming, expensive and unsuccessful. What they do not tell you is that no New Hampshire community has voted to abolish fluoride in its water supply. In other words, a small group of activists are using this bill to do an end-run around our system of municipal government and local control.
If HB 192 becomes law, New Hampshire not only will abolish local control, but will become the first state in the nation to openly reject a public health program that every leading health organization in the world concludes improves the public health. All scientific data and evidence point clearly to the benefits — not risks — of community water fluoridation.
Our state representatives would be wise to stand with New Hampshire’s dental community in making oral health care a priority for all Granite Staters, especially children, to acknowledge science, to respect local control and to vote in opposition to this bill.
Laurie A. Rosato, DMD is a practicing dentist in Concord and chairwoman of the N.H. Dental Society’s Committee on Government Affairs.