Last month, the Anchorage Assembly voted down a proposal to put the question of water fluoridation to voters. The vote was 9-1 with two primary reasons for rejecting it. The first reason was that the Assembly thought a scientific question should be based on scientific evidence rather than a popular vote.

However, the Assembly might have felt differently if there were not a current citizen initiative to get the issue on the ballot. Some Assembly members felt that if the citizen initiative couldn’t get enough support to get on the ballot, it was obvious people wanted to keep fluoride. And if the initiative did get on the ballot, the Assembly’s poll would be redundant.

But it seems clear that if fluoridation were stopped, we would see the need for more restorative dentistry like fillings and crowns here in Anchorage.

Recent Evidence from Juneau and Canada

Antifluoridation forces, like anti-vaccination forces, have gained power in the 21st century, finding support for stopping what had been considered some of the greatest health achievements of the 20th century. They have scored victories in some surprising places, including down in Juneau, where fluoridation stopped ten years ago.

The Juneau experience certainly seems to indicate that stopping fluoridation had a significant effect on the oral health of children in the city. One dentist looked back at her records from 2008-2016, and found that the number of restorations she placed on the proximal surfaces of teeth increased about 3.5 times before she started referring cases to a pediatric dentist. Even with referrals, she was performing about twice as many restorations as in 2008. The proximal surface is the part of the tooth that faces another tooth. Proximal surface cavities are the most sensitive to fluoridation because they are less likely to get exposed to fluoride from toothpastes.

Although the dentist admits that her sample is small, it matches recent research from Alberta, Canada. In 2011, Calgary decided to remove fluoride from their water. A 2016 study showed that cavities in second-grade children grew by an average of 3.8 tooth surfaces from 2004-2014 in Calgary, compared to a growth of only 2.1 surfaces in nearby Edmonton over the same period.

Adding these recent experiences to previous research indicates that fluoridation is likely effective at reducing childhood cavities, which may translate into a significant reduction in adult cavities, too.

Still Room for Debate

Although the safety of fluoride has similar support to its effectiveness, there are still important questions about water fluoridation to consider.

Even if it is safe, and even if it is effective, some people are still unhappy with the idea that the city is adding medication to water, taking away people’s choice about whether they want to take it or not. However, the truth is that we do still have a choice. People in Anchorage could decide, like those in Juneau, Fairbanks, and Palmer, to stop having it put into the water.

It’s just that, so far, they’ve decided they love their children’s teeth too much to make that choice.

Even with water fluoridation, restorative dentistry is necessary for most of us at some point in our lives. If you are looking for an Anchorage dentist to provide attractive, functional restorative dentistry, please call (907) 349-0022 today for an appointment at Excellence in Dentistry.