Caries is a disease that infects nearly 100 percent of the world’s population. Most of us become infected in the first year of life, and we may become re-infected with different strains throughout our lives. Our most vulnerable populations are the hardest hit, including children, the elderly and those in poverty. As a society, we spend billions of dollars every year combatting the effects of this disease.
Now imagine that there is a way to prevent much of the damage this disease causes. A way that we could avoid the pain and save the costs of treatment. A way that uses a naturally occurring mineral found in all water. A way that costs only pennies per person per year. Well you don’t have to imagine, because the method of preventing this disease has been utilized for decades, safely and effectively.
Caries is the disease that causes tooth decay, and optimally fluoridating water helps prevent the damage. Communities have been utilizing this public health measure for 60 years. It is not medicine. It is a mineral that is incorporated in the crystalline hard tissues of the teeth and makes them resistant to the acids that result from the caries bacteria. If this happens during the time of tooth formation – in the womb, infancy and early childhood – people get a lifetime of benefit and measurably lower rates of dental disease.
I grew up drinking Albuquerque water, but I was 14 before the voters approved optimal fluoridation in 1970. That was too late for me to experience the maximum benefit. My kids all grew up here with appropriate fluoride levels for their entire lives. What a different experience. I’ve had good dental care, but plenty of it. They’ve experienced very little other than routine checkups. I suspect that many from my generation have had similar experiences.
When the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority quietly stopped optimal fluoridation six years ago there was no fanfare or vote and no calls by the Journal for prior notification. In fact, it was almost a year before the water board notified the public of their actions. Since then we have begun to see the effects. It’s high time to get back to the best practice recommended by the CDC, the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association and many others, including several national water utility organizations on which ABCWUA relies for best practices.
People have the right to avoid fluoride, if they want, but our tap water already has significant levels of naturally-occurring fluoride, so they will have to find other sources anyway. For the rest of us, the ABCWUA should make sure the fluoride is set at the optimal level based on 60 years of experience and sound research. I want my kids’ kids to have the same benefits their parents had. The ABCWUA board’s amending the budget for the equipment and supplies necessary to make that happen is the prudent and responsible action of our elected leaders.