Local doctor talks fluoride

Re: Support for current system

I would like to thank you for your article on Sheridan’s community water fluoridation process. I felt Michael Illiano’s article was well written and very accurately presented the significant benefits and small risk of water fluoridation. As the community surveys regarding water fluoridation are mailed this week, I wanted to voice my support of our current system.

I’ve discussed community water fluoridation with my dental colleagues, most of whom trained in cities providing water fluoridation. Upon leaving dental school and coming to Sheridan, many of them describe being horrified at seeing oral hygiene similar to “what you’d see on a mission’s trip to the developing world.” Then, over the last few years, thanks to the addition of fluoride, our children’s oral health has improved significantly.

The concept of removing fluoride from our water brings to mind the measles cases recently resurfacing in our country. Worldwide, there were 110,000 measles deaths in 2017. Most of these deaths occurred in developing countries in children under the age of 5. Thankfully, through public health efforts and vaccination, most of the residents of Sheridan County have never even seen a case of measles. As awareness of the dangers of measles falls, there is much less incentive to become vaccinated. In much the same way, water fluoridation has considerably improved the oral health in Sheridan’s youth and decreased the level of awareness of not having this public health benefit. If fluoride is removed, I worry the oral health conditions previously seen will once again resurface in our community, especially in those disadvantaged youth who will be most at risk.

As an adult primary care physician, I do get rare questions about the safety of adding 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water. Generally, these questions concern subjects such as thyroid disease, dementia or heart disease. On rare occasions a patient will even bring studies describing potential dangers of this practice. While I’m always happy to review these studies with my patients, I do feel comfortable providing reassurance that the overwhelming amount of data does support the safety of adding this level of fluoride to our water while providing significant benefit.

As you know, among many other major health organizations, the American Dental Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and American College of Physicians all support community water fluoridation. In 2014, the CDC notes 74.4 percent of the U.S. population had access to fluoridated water, and they are actively working to increase this percentage. In fact, the CDC views community water fluoridation as one of the top 10 public health interventions of the last century.

Growing up in Sheridan, I did not receive the benefits of this important public health practice. Thankfully, my children have been drinking fluoridated water most of their lives. They will have much better oral health than I have had, and the benefits of this will continue throughout their adult lives. The addition of this small amount of fluoride to our community water provides a dramatic benefit to people of all ages and income levels. I am so pleased my children are growing up in a community that provides fluoride in its water.

As surveys are mailed this week, I would ask Sheridan County residents to please complete and return their surveys so we can continue to receive this important and safe health benefit.


Dr. Ian Hunter, MD FACP

County Health Officer

Chief of Staff, Sheridan Memorial Hospital