Opinion: Fluoride won’t fix oral health problem, says Potsdam resident
Tuesday, September 11, 2018 - 8:46 am

To the Editor:

As a resident of the Village and town of Potsdam, I oppose adding fluoride to our drinking water because I believe that it is a Band-Aid attempt for community public health that fails to address the underlying problems.

It is clear that dental health in St Lawrence County is a problem. Almost 40% of 3rd graders have untreated cavities. But this problem is confounded by several issues. We have too few dentists in the region for our population and many of those don’t take Medicaid, resulting in only 34% of children with Medicaid who had an annual preventative dental visit. And, these elementary school children are among the most overweight and obese in the state, suggesting that oral health might be compromised by diet choices.

And with that sad state of oral health in our region, I am advocating that we don’t add fluoride to water. Yes, we clearly need better public initiatives for dental health, but fluoride in drinking water does not reach much of the population in need.

While the current decision is considered a village issue, political boundaries are irrelevant when we consider our area’s population. Addressing oral health problems through our drinking water will impact fewer than 50% of the households in the town of Potsdam. Can we really feel comfortable with a solution that does not offer the benefits attributed to fluoride in water to our neighbors?

This Band-Aid solution does not address the needs of people who do not drink public water, who cannot find a dentist to treat their dental hygiene needs, and for whom access to healthy, non-sugary foods is a challenge.

Fluoride in our drinking water does not address the underlying problems we face. Better solutions would include Dental health clinics, fluoride treatments through the schools and other community dental health solutions. Yes, these are expensive, but they will do a much better job of reaching all of our neighbors who struggle with dental health problems.

Data from: https://www.health.ny.gov/statistics/chac/indicators/, https://www.health.ny.gov/environmental/water/drinking/pws_contacts/map_... and https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/ny/PST045217.

Susan E. Powers