18 Ala. water systems stopped adding fluoride

Budget cuts have caused 18 water systems in Alabama to discontinue fluoridating their drinking water, according to a story on MontgomeryAdvertiser.com.

Unlike some states that mandate that public water systems add fluoride to their water, Alabama does not. Currently, 12 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia require fluoridation of their water supplies, according to the American Dental Association.

Sherry Goode, director for oral health with the state Department of Public Health, said most Alabamians -- nearly 83% -- benefit from fluoridated water, the story noted.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized community water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

The economy might be causing some systems to decide that maintaining the fluoridation equipment is too expensive, or the systems may have eliminated the service all together, according to State Health Officer Don Williamson, M.D.

Five counties in the state -- Washington, Hale, Cherokee, Bullock, and Geneva -- do not currently provide fluoridated water, according to the story.

The cost to fluoride the water, an average of $1 per person per year, is very low compared to the average estimated cost of dental treatment, which is about $38 per person, Goode said.

"It is a very wise and practical investment," she said. "A large percentage of families in Alabama do not have dental insurance, which may prevent them from accessing routine dental care and place them at greater risk for experiencing dental disease."

If a water system stops adding fluoride, it might be discontinuing the only form of regular dental care some residents receive, Goode said.

John Thornton, D.D.M., a pediatric dentist and associate dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Dentistry, said research shows that drinking fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by 40% or more, the story stated.

"When we implemented fluoridation in Alabama and around the country, we had a dramatic drop in cavities around the country," said Dr. Thornton, who also serves as a consultant for the Department of Public Health.

Copyright © 2010 DrBicuspid.com

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