Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 15, 2014

Forum: Oral health important to overall health

Traverse City Commissioners will make an important decision about the health and well-being of city residents during its June 16 meeting. It’s imperative that the commissioners continue to fund the community water fluoridation program. It’s a relatively small investment — the program costs each resident about 75 cents per year — which has a major impact on everyone’s dental health.

Although the city commissioners may intend to cut costs, the return on investment for funding water fluoridation says that investing in fluoride now will save money in the long run. Discontinuing community water fluoridation means that Traverse City residents will be ones who are forced to pick up the costs for fluoride supplements. Plus, we know that for every dollar invested in a community water fluoridation program, between $38 and $50 are saved in dental treatment costs. Water fluoridation has the most profound impact on people who are at the greatest risk to develop dental disease, and who are often the least able to do anything about it — children and the elderly.

As a local dentist, my concern is for my patients’ and the entire community’s health. It is difficult to watch people suffer needlessly from cavities that could have been prevented with access to fluoridated water. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, five times more common that hay fever, and seven times more common than asthma. Fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated water deliver a one-two punch in the fight against cavities.

I recently returned from providing free care to patients in the Big Rapids area during the Michigan Dental Association’s Mission of Mercy. Many of these patients only have access to well water. The rampant tooth decay we saw was a vivid reminder of how children from non-fluoridated communities suffer.

In Michigan today, 90 percent of the communities with a public water supply provide the benefits of community water fluoridation. The process started in Grand Rapids, Mich., nearly 70 years ago. Today, studies prove water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing dental decay by at least 25 percent in children and adults, even in the era of widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.

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