It reduces cavity rates, dental decay and helps cities and their residents save exponentially every year on dental care.
These were some of the many arguments made by the very pro-fluoride crowd that attended Thursday’s Water Advisory Committee meeting, the first in a series of discussions that will lead to the committee’s recommendation to the City Council about whether the city should fluoridate its drinking water supply.
The WAC next will hear arguments from the opponents to fluoridation May 23 and then will debate and make a recommendation to the council June 27. The council, which has the ultimate say, likely will make its decision July 9.
Seven different speakers, made up of dentists, physicians and other health advocates spoke to the group Thursday providing a mouthful of statistics that back the benefits of mass-fluoridating a public water supply.
Additionally, the water committee heard testimony from many in the general public who also support fluoridation. Only two speakers out of about the 20 or so who addressed the group spoke in opposition to fluoride.
The argument most commonly made by those in support of fluoridation focused on the benefits to the dental health of children.
“Tooth decay is still the No. 1 chronic disease for children,” said Carole Pirruccello, chair of the Yolo County Health Council’s subcommittee on fluoridation. “It (causes) pain, problems with nutrition, speech issues, lack of concentration, low self-esteem and time away from school. Often … fluoridated water is the best thing a community can do in terms of cost and effectiveness to improve the oral health of their citizens.”
Sheila Allen, Davis school board president, provided that 16 percent of Davis kindergarteners who submitted to oral health assessments recently were found to have untreated dental decay. Kim Wallace, a local dentist, offered that 26 percent of Davis preschoolers have untreated cavities.
Another reoccurring argument made by the pro-fluoride contingency in attendance centered on the low cost of fluoridating public drinking water.
Reid Haflich, a student intern UC Davis Graduate School of Public Health, cited that for every $1 invested in fluoride, $38 are saved in dental treatment.
“In West Sacramento, a community that was fluoridated several years ago, per month a family pays 38 cents to receive fluoridated water,” Haflich said.
Some at the meeting also described fluoridating public drinking water as a social justice issue, as providing the chemical publicly affords all residents access to preventative dental care.
“It helps people who don’t have that easy access (and it) prevents the usage of those safety net programs, those clinics,” one commenter said. “Here in front of us we have this amazing preventative measure.”
Alan Pryor, a member of Davis Citizens Against Fluoridation and one of the two lone voices against fluoride, countered the pro-side with arguments of his own, beginning first by addressing the issue of providing fluoride to lower-income populations.
“(Studies say) the poor dental health in minority and disadvantaged communities is due to the simple fact (they) receive a disproportionately smaller share of dental health care, rather than due to the presence or absence of fluoride in their drinking water,” Pryor said.
— Reach Tom Sakash at email@example.com or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @TomSakash