Is Fluoridation a Thing of the Past or the Future? Two movies that help us understand.
Guest Column by John Bastey, Director of Government Relations of the Maine Dental Association fromMDA NewsJournal for August, 2011
When I was a kid there was a movie (maybe some of you remember it)-- Dr. Strangelove. In that spoof of the cold war, Sterling Hayden played Gen. Jack Ripper. The General was consumed with the idea that water fluoridation was a Communist plot to sap the vital juices of Americans. That was back in the dark ages, 1964, when fluoridation of public water supplies was a hot topic. The movie, and especially Gen. Ripper, were caricatures of cold war militarism and the then current campaign against adding fluoride to public drinking water.
The other movie, Back to the Future, with Michael J. Fox, is more current and relates the story of a teen who is flipped back into his parents' day and lives some time in their 1960s lives.
Those two movie themes encapsulate what is going on in Maine right now. In some towns it seems we are back in the 1960s, fighting the same anti-fluoridation battles our mothers and fathers fought before us, except now we are trying to keep public water supplies in Maine fluoridated.
Where are the battles being fought? The town of Mt. Desert de-fluoridated about five years ago and Jackman-Moose River about 3 years ago. The Kennebunk-Kennebunkport water district tried two years ago too, but failed. Island Falls water district tried to remove fluoride a year and a half ago, and is discussing removal again this year. Likewise there is currently an effort in the Great Salt Bay water district serving Damariscotta and Newcastle and in Baileyville where the Town Council may, or may not, vote to remove fluoride. On the good news side, the towns of Lincoln and Howland, who share a water system, may vote to institute fluoridation in the near future.
Why are these Strangelovian battles being still being fought? For three reasons:
- Because some folks, like General Ripper, can't get anti-fluoridation-ism out of their heads,
- Because the Internet makes mis-information so quickly and easily available,
- Because towns facing budget crunches see removing fluoride as a way to save a few dollars.
But the science is essentially the same. Fluoridation works, especially for the young. Now we are learning it works for the elderly as well, as receding gums reveal previously covered tooth structure to bacterial attack.
Some changes in the recommended amount of fluoride in public water have taken place as more information is gleaned from the more than fifty years of fluoride experience, and the level in Maine is being reduced from 1.2 PPM to 0.7. Parents of very young children are advised not to use fluoridated water in making baby formula due to the chance of fluorosis ( a cosmetic concern that could mean some tooth discoloration), a very remote possibility. It is unfortunate that anti-fluoridationists have latched onto these minor changes in recommendations as ";proof"; of the ";danger"; of community water fluoridation....and they are becoming more and more vocal in Maine.
The arguments used against fluoridation are pretty much the same as always, but now with a pseudo-scientific gloss to them. Comments like ";This is an industrial waste material from China"; are used, or ";Studies show cancer in young boys"; is heard and ";Fluoridation isn't needed anymore because toothpaste has fluoride and there are other sources of fluoride in food."; These and many other specious arguments are made to convince folks to take fluoride out of the drinking water. I suppose the fact that no one says ";Fluoride saps our vital juices"; or ";It's a Communist plot"; anymore shows at least some improvement, or maybe I haven't visited that Website yet...
The MDA is, of course, fully in support of keeping and increasing the number of fluoridated public water systems in the Maine, and we welcome efforts from all oral health allies and advocates, especially at the local level where these battles are being waged.
You are the experts and this is a matter of public health. Saving a few dollars in the town budget is not a good reason to take fluoride out of the water. It is critical that oral health professionals and advocates support water fluoridation in their communities. Education is an ongoing effort. Start now to build a groundswell of support-before your town or city is faced with an anti-fluoridation effort.
For links to research and information about fluoridation in Maine go to the Resources page of the MDAC web site. Scroll down to ";Community Water Fluoridation; Healthy and Safe";.