Springfield suffers without fluoridated water supply

October 10, 2010

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BRAVO TO Stephen Smith for his article on fluoridation (“Fluoridation is still a hard sell in Mass.: Resistance strong despite benefits,’’ Page A1, Sept. 29). I have dear friends who have lived in Springfield all their lives and lost their teeth in their 40s and 50s because they were not lucky enough to be born in a section of the United States where there is a sufficiently high level of naturally occurring fluoride in the public water supply.

The idea of adding fluoride to water supplies was born decades ago, when scientists discovered that residents whose water supply had a certain level of fluoride occurring naturally had dramatically better teeth than residents where there was little or no fluoride in the water.

You cite a Springfield chiropractor, who has led the fight against fluoridating our water supply over the years, and says, “I would not force anybody to take a chemical through the water supply for the rest of their life.’’ He fails to realize that water itself is a chemical (hydrogen and oxygen). And I’m sure he would not object if some kind of “chemical’’ were added to the water supply if it became contaminated.

Ironically, Springfield, a poor city, does not provide its 29,000 schoolchildren with fluoridated water to protect their teeth, while next door, Longmeadow, one of the wealthiest towns in the state, does.

Jean Caldwell

Block to preventive health is discouraging to dentists
DENTISTRY IS all about prevention. As dentists, we are trained to do everything possible to keep every tooth healthy. That’s why your story on fluoride (“Fluoridation is still a hard sell in Mass.,’’ Page A1, Sept. 29) is so discouraging to those in the dental profession who have tirelessly advocated for fluoride for more than a half a century. As a state, we pride ourselves on being leaders in science and medicine. Yet, as your story accurately indicates, Massachusetts ranks a dismal 36th in the country when it comes to community water fluoridation.

More than 65 major health organizations worldwide have endorsed water fluoridation. Clinical studies continue to show that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by up to 60 percent in children and 35 percent in adults. But we also have come to realize that the issue of fluoride, to some, is less about science and more about emotion. The groups and individuals questioning the safety of fluoride tend to forget that many dentists are parents, too. Why would we advocate for water fluoridation if we believed that it would be compromising our own children’s health in any way?

One of the biggest issues in Massachusetts is access to health care for the underserved. That includes oral health care. With less dental disease, there is less need for access. Prevention is less expensive than treatment — for the individual and for the Commonwealth.

Dr. John P. Fisher
Massachusetts Dental Society

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