Opinion Columns & Blogs

It would be foolish to end fluoridation in Fircrest

Nearly 60 years ago, the City of Fircrest began offering the benefits of fluoridated water to its residents. Fircrest’s decision to fluoridate its water supply was part of a national movement to improve oral health.

That movement is alive and well; some 74 percent of Americans on public water supplies have access to fluoridated water.

However, on Aug. 12, the Fircrest City Council will revisit the topic of fluoridation. Why? A small but very vocal group of anti-fluoride activists is urging the council to stop fluoridating. Following the anti-fluoride activists’ lead would be a mistake.

The case for community water fluoridation is compelling. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

In addition, nearly every respected professional health organization in the world – including the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization – strongly supports community water fluoridation. These organizations support community water fluoridation because it has been proven to improve oral health for everyone.

More than 3,000 scientific studies show that people who drink fluoridated water have fewer cavities, less pain associated with tooth decay, and less need for fillings and extractions. Fluoride critics dismiss these proven benefits in much the same way vaccination opponents dismiss the need to get children immunized. They rely on questionable research and unsubstantiated claims found on the Internet.

Our more than 75 years of combined experience as pediatric care providers have seen firsthand how untreated cavities affect overall health. Many children with advanced tooth decay visit Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital’s emergency department in great pain. Watching these children suffer will convince you that taking away one of the most effective tools we have to combat cavities would be a terrible mistake.

Over the course of a single month last spring, Mary Bridge treated 110 children for severe tooth decay in its operating rooms. These treatments put children through unneeded risk and pain, and also are costly.

According to the American Dental Association, community water fluoridation reduces cavities by 25 percent. Studies estimate that every dollar invested in fluoridation saves $38 in future dental bills. If communities in the area weren’t fluoridated, the number of children needing care, and the cost of that care, would be far greater.

There is a strong link between oral health and overall health. Tooth decay has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, pregnancy complications, poor nutrition, stroke and systemic disease. Luckily, community water fluoridation benefits not only children, but people of all ages.

In 1957, the City of Fircrest demonstrated its commitment to the improved health of all its citizens by fluoridating its water supply. We have benefitted from that decision made almost 60 years ago with better oral health. Most of us have been able to avoid the persistent pain caused by severe tooth decay.

In Fircrest, we have had nearly six decades of experience with fluoride. We owe it to the next generation to make certain that we protect their oral health, just as the last generation protected ours.

The decision to fluoridate Fircrest’s water supply is based on solid science that has been validated by six decades of practical application. We urge the Fircrest City Council to preserve community water fluoridation and oppose any effort to end it. The health of our citizens is at stake.

Jeffrey Camm is a Fircrest-based pediatric dentist with more than 35 years experience. Terry Torgenrud is a retired pediatrician who practiced in Fircrest and University Place for 40 years.