Last week, Portland residents rejected a plan to fluoridate city water for the fourth time since 1956 – making it the largest city in the United States without fluoride in its water supply. Had it passed, the fluoridated water would have reached 900,000 people. In the 1950s, cities throughout the U.S. championed water fluoridation as a way of fighting tooth decay, but the effort backfired when a condition called fluorosis emerged, which ironically is characterized by tooth enamel discoloration and erosion.
“In my professional opinion, fluoride use is a serious public health concern and requires a major ‘redress’ based on the startling research that continues to now emerge,” Dr. Gerald Curatola, a dentist and owner of Rejuvenation Dentistry in New York City, told FoxNews.com. “Four out of ten adolescent children now have defective enamel from too much fluoride exposure. The irony is that these teeth are more prone to decay – the very reason they were given fluoride to protect.”
Anti-fluoride group Fluoride Action Network celebrated the Portland decision, stating that voters agreed with the position of most western nations that there are safer, more effective and less intrusive ways to promote oral health than adding a chemical linked to thyroid disease, IQ loss and other ailments to the water supply.
“We are proud of our Portland colleagues who used science and integrity to defeat fluoridation and the public relations blitzkrieg that backed it,” said Paul Connett, PhD, Fluoride Action Network’s Executive Director, in a press release.
In contrast, pro-fluoride group Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland argued that fluoridating Portland’s drinking water would reduce tooth decay by at least 25% as topical treatments like toothpaste or rinses aren’t enough and aren’t available to every family. They added that fluoridating water benefits everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, age, insurance status, race and other factors that contribute to poor oral health.
“The results are certainly disappointing, but I think they’re mostly disappointing because, at the end of the day, we were not able to provide this preventative measure,” said Alejandro Queral of Healthy Kids, Healthy Portland. “This issue doesn’t go away at the end of the election.”
Fluoride Action Network argues that the vast majority of poor urban communities have been fluoridated for over 30 years, and yet are still suffering from a severe oral health crisis due to lack of affordable dental care. For example, low-income families in fluoridated Detroit, fluoridated New York City and fluoridated Chicago still have rampant levels of tooth decay, and in San Antonio, after eight years of fluoridation, the tooth decay rate did not decrease – it increased.
“Fluoridationists had no evidence that any Portland child was fluoride-deficient; but did prove that some Portland children are dentist-deficient,” Connett said. “We urge the legalization of dental therapists in Oregon who will treat the low-income children who dentists refuse to treat.”