Island Forum: Fluoride is safe and effective and benefits everyone

In its Dec. 6 edition, the Mercer Island Reporter ran an opinion piece authored by Bill Osmunson. This opinion piece claimed fluoride harms babies. Osmunson's claims are indeed opinions, and they shouldn't be confused with the facts.

Community water fluoridation is safe, effective, and benefits everyone – young and old. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named community water fluoridation one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century. Fluoride exists naturally in virtually all water supplies. Water is “fluoridated” when a public water system adjusts the fluoride to a level known to prevent tooth decay. Community water fluoridation has been studied for over 60 years and endorsed by numerous health and science organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American Dental Association and by child advocacy groups like Voices for America’s Children. Why? Because it reduces tooth decay by up to 40%, benefits people of all ages and incomes, and saves $38 for every dollar invested.

Since the 1940s, communities across the nation have begun fluoridating their water and reducing tooth decay. Mercer Island residents are among over 195 million Americans (over 72% of people living on public water supplies) who receive the benefits of community water fluoridation by simply turning on the tap. Mercer Island’s fluoridated water is clean, safe, and effective, and has been since 1970 when fluoridation began.

Today, Americans have access to more fluoride than they did in the 1940s, which causes some people to wonder whether we still need fluoridated water. The answer is yes. It’s true that other sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinse, have become much more available in the past 60 years. These other sources of fluoride have helped reduce tooth decay even further, but they do not eliminate the need for community water fluoridation.

Further, fluoridated water is safe for babies and children and can be safely used to reconstitute infant formula.

While tooth decay has decreased over the years, it is still a problem and can impact children’s ability to eat, sleep, and learn. The good news is that tooth decay is preventable, and community water fluoridation is a safe, highly effective way to prevent this disease and promote good oral health and overall health for people of all ages and income groups.

My associates at Mercer Island Pediatrics, Drs. Quinn, Ellner, Schreuder, Gonzalez and myself, Dr. Glassy all agree that fluoride in our drinking water is safe and good for children. Also contributing to this article is Dr. Tom Davidson, DDS, retired Mercer Island dentist


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