Tyrone risking decay

It was surprising to see Tyrone Borough Council recently vote in favor of removing fluoride from its water.

After almost 20 years of fluoridation, borough council has decided to stop what the Center for Disease Control has called one of the 10 great public health achievements in the 20th Century.

The decision, made at a council meeting last week, seemed to come quickly with limited research and little opportunity for the borough residents to weigh in on the subject.

Yet 30 days after posting a notice, the borough will be ready to stop fluoridating its water because a few borough leaders latched onto arguments offered against the practice.

Fluoridation is a subject with a long history, starting in the 1930s when its oral health benefits were recognized.

In 1951, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council recommended community fluoridation, especially in areas with sizable populations of children.

The NRC based its action on a study showing a remarkable decline in tooth decay in Grand Rapids, Mich., which began fluoridating its water in 1945.

In the decades since, community water fluoridation has been endorsed by the U.S. Surgeon General’s office, the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, The American Public Health Association and a long list of additional health, medical and dental groups.

And in Grand Rapids, Mich., residents are still reaping the benefits of fluoridated water – after 68 years of the practice.

Despite widespread support, fluoridation has its critics who argue against involuntary ingestion and focus on possible risks which are significantly outweighed by the benefits.

In 2007, when the Altoona City Authority considered the question of fluoridating Altoona’s water, we editorialized in favor of fluoridation, and we haven’t changed our mind.

At that time, Altoona Hospital Partnership for a Healthy Community took the fluoridation question to the authority and presented a study showing every dollar spent on fluoridation generates an $80 savings in dental treatments and a 35 percent reduction in tooth decay.

Still, the authority members came up with a variety of reasons to say no.

Tyrone’s residents, especially the young parents who have benefited from 20 years of fluoridated water, need to convince borough leaders to reconsider, for the sake of their children and their pocketbooks.

One of the best arguments in favor comes from the firsthand experience of Dr. Katherine Dangler of Altoona Family Dentistry. She has practiced in Bellefonte and State College, where the water is fluoridated and in Altoona, where it’s not.

The children in Altoona, Dangler said, have more cavities because they don’t get enough fluoride to harden and strengthen their tooth enamel.

That’s the kind of evidence Tyrone leaders should use to keep fluoridating their water.