Guest opinion: Grave mistake not to add fluoride in Rifle
We are writing this letter to voice our support of supplementing the Rifle public water with a therapeutic dose of fluoride. Our two pediatric specialty clinics are located in Glenwood Springs and Rifle.
It would be fair to say that we, in conjunction with our general dentist colleagues, are on the front lines in battling the well-known problem of tooth decay in children and special needs adults. As the name of our practice, All Kids Dental, indicates, we accept all insurances.
Our patient economic demographics are as wide as any specialty pediatric dental practice in the country. This gives us a unique perspective into the community water fluoridation issue. We are well-versed in regard to the issue of water fluoridation and fluoride in general. As our comments below indicate, our practice is wholeheartedly supportive of water fluoridation, and it would be a grave mistake to miss this incredible opportunity to supplement the natural water in Rifle that already contains 0.33 parts-per-million (ppm) of fluoride.
It is essential to understand the history of fluoride before we defend its safety, cost effectiveness and overall benefit. First of all, fluoride is a natural substance, and its elemental form, fluorine, is one of the most common elements found on the earth’s crust. For example, seawater, which covers nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface, has a fluoride concentration level of 1.2 ppm, which is very similar to the optimal fluoride concentration for caries (cavity) prevention. Moreover, Rifle’s water supply already contains fluoride; only it contains a non-beneficial amount.
Dr. John Warren from the University of Iowa observed:
“Because fluoride is abundant in our surroundings, the human race has adapted to the presence of small amounts of fluoride in the environment for eons, such that fluoride, in small amounts, is unlikely to pose significant harm to humans. Thus, fluoride is not a foreign substance, is not anything new, and based on evolutionary biology, is unlikely to cause harm to humans at low exposure levels (such as community water fluoridation).”
The effects of natural water fluoridation were actually discovered by a dentist in Colorado when he observed that his patients with brown stains on their teeth (later recognized as dental fluorosis) were free from cavities. A short time later, the link was made between the fluoridated water that caused the brown stains and the cavity-free patients.
What followed were many years of careful observation, study and research in order to establish an optimum water fluoride concentration that minimized the risk of dental fluorosis while maintaining significant caries prevention. This, combined with the observation of extremely high caries rates among World War II military inductees, led to the establishment of “artificial” water fluoridation. This process adds small amounts of fluoride to water supplies to bring the water concentration to optimum levels. Water fluoridation was initiated only after many years of careful observation and study, and was not something imposed on the American people by the government, private industry or the like.
Water fluoridation was initiated nearly 70 years ago, and except for some slightly increased risk for mild dental fluorosis, which has been well known for years, there has been no credible evidence of harmful effects of consuming water fluoridated with an optimum level of 0.7-1.0ppm. None. In other words, no relationships have been found between optimum water fluoridation levels and chronic, acute or developmental conditions.
During that same 70-year period, there have been countless studies confirming its benefits. Dr. Susan Griffin, a health economist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, estimated that in a typical city, water fluoridation costs about $4.92 per person over a 15-year period, but prevents over $300 worth of treatment costs for dental caries over that time.
It is also important to remember that community water fluoridation serves the entire community, and has the biggest impact on the poor and underserved. In 2012, 77 percent of the children attending Wamsley Elementary School qualified for free or subsidized lunch. In short, water fluoridation is safe, effective, costs very little and benefits the entire population.
We realize that some well-intentioned, albeit misinformed people oppose water fluoridation. Dr. General C. Everett Koop, former U.S. surgeon general observed:
“Fluoride is not a mysterious substance. It’s not an experiment. You’re not being asked to approve something that’s been built on uncertain findings…. Does everyone agree with me? Not by a long shot. But I have to tell you, they’re wrong. I never lied to you as a surgeon general. And the people who oppose the fluoridation of water don’t know what they’re talking about.”
We have witnessed firsthand that our patients from Glenwood Springs to Aspen suffer from far fewer cavities than our patients from Parachute, Rifle/Silt and New Castle. Severe early childhood caries is rampant in our Rifle office. Recently, the CDC recommended that community water fluoride concentration levels stay at an optimum range of 0.7 ppm. Mother Earth already concentrates Rifles water supply halfway. The water might as well have some caries protection benefit.
The authors are board-certified pediatric dentists.
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