This week, members of the Wellington Village Council made an unfortunate error that could cost residents not only money, but also their health. When the council voted 3-2 to stop adding fluoride to Wellington’s water supply, they put the desires of a small, fringe minority over scientific fact, and might have doomed many residents to costly tooth decay and mounting dental bills.
Water fluoridation is a controversial issue across the nation and has been since it was introduced in the 1940s. Wellington voted to begin fluoridation in 1999 after a long debate and began adding fluoride to the water in 2000. Though both sides are incredibly passionate on the issue, only one side has the support of most health officials and many scientific studies to back it up. Unfortunately, this time Wellington made the wrong choice, choosing conspiracy theories over facts and studies. Fluoridation of the water supply is important to reduce tooth decay and dental diseases that could lead to permanent damage.
This issue is most important for our children. Although Wellington has many affluent areas, it also has communities with poorer families. Considering that social programs such as Medicare or Florida KidCare — which many families rely on — do not offer full dental coverage in all their plans, too many children will go without seeing a dentist until they are older.
Even children who have access to dental care aren’t always the most diligent about brushing and flossing, and having the extra exposure to fluoride through drinking water can make a large difference between healthy teeth and dental diseases.
It can even help adults who have regular access to dental care. A 2013 study done by the University of North Carolina and published in the Journal of Dental Research found that fluoride in drinking water helps prevent tooth decay in adults, whether or not they were exposed to fluoride as children. With Wellington’s large senior population, many whom are on Medicare and don’t have dental coverage, water fluoridation is just as important to keep their teeth healthy, and studies show it works.
More than 204 million people in the U.S. ingest fluoride in their water supply, while about 100 million lack that access. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by about 25 percent over a person’s lifetime.
Communities across the country continue to add fluoride to water because it works. Fluoride was added to water in the 1940s after studies found that communities with naturally occurring fluoride in the water supply had less tooth decay than those without. Since then, this crucial public policy has helped millions of people maintain healthy teeth.
It is unfortunate that some members of the Wellington Village Council were swayed by conspiracy theories and conjecture rather than the professional opinions of medical doctors and health officials from throughout the area, many whom see first-hand the benefits of water fluoridation every day.
We hope council members will reconsider, and that residents will take this issue seriously and push for fluoridation once again.