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Bring back supplemental water fluoridation

Over the last 40 years, you, your children and your families have safely benefitted from supplemental fluoride in Albuquerque’s drinking water. Since 1972, this simple public health measure has been a part of our daily lives, saving our community countless millions in dental costs and protecting innumerable healthy smiles.

Unfortunately, two years ago, supplemental water fluoridation was stopped unilaterally without a vote by the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority. The move was not publicly announced for almost a year.

As concerned dentists, the members of the Albuquerque District Dental Society urge the water authority to reinstate supplemental fluoridation to the optimum level of .7 parts per million recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fluoride has been shown to be extremely effective at reducing the presence and progress of tooth decay in persons of all ages. Although fluoride naturally occurs in Albuquerque’s water, it is at levels too low to provide measurable health benefits and requires supplementation to reach optimal beneficial levels.

Water fluoridation is accepted as a best practice by countless community water systems, and the benefits are recognized by more than 125 national and international health, service and professional organizations, including the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society.

The CDC has called community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, and nearly 70 years of research and practical experience has consistently indicated that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe.

The cost savings for our community and individuals provided by this reduction in disease far outweighs the cost of implementation, and will be realized for generations to come. According to a CDC study, every $1 invested yearly in water fluoridation yields $38 savings in dental treatment costs. By taking away this valuable preventative tool, we are putting pressure on Albuquerque’s health care system, forcing more people in dental pain to seek overcrowded emergency rooms instead of qualified oral health professionals, and thus shifting the costs to taxpayers.

And, perhaps of greatest concern, removal of supplemental water fluoridation will especially affect the health of our children.

In a 2000 report, the Surgeon General recognized dental caries (cavities) as one of the most common childhood diseases, costing an estimated 51 million school hours lost to kids with dental-related illnesses.

Additionally, underprivileged children suffered nearly 12 times more restricted-activity days than children from higher-income families. Currently, fluoridation in places like the South Valley remain well below the .7 parts per million levels necessary to have a positive impact on oral health.

Supplemental water fluoridation has been a part of our lives for 40 years. Regardless of income, education or race, the oral health of everyone in Albuquerque has been safeguarded by the preventative benefits of supplemental fluoridation.

The Albuquerque District Dental Society respectfully asks the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority to reverse the decision to erase decades of good policy by reinstating supplemental fluoridation to optimal levels.