The Derby City Council has approved a resolution encouraging the fluoridation of Wichita’s drinking water. The issue, though, is not before the Wichita City Council and appears to have little chance of getting on an agenda soon.
The Derby council approved a resolution at its July 10 meeting, which endorses the issue and strongly encourages Wichita to fluoridate its municipal drinking water. Derby purchases its drinking water from the city of Wichita.
Multiple media reports from Wichita, though, have shown over the past few months that Wichita council members have little interest in considering or supporting the issue. The primary reason is the cost of starting the fluoridation process, estimated at between $2 million and $3 million.
The Sedgwick County Health Department estimates that cost would be passed on to water users at a cost of about 50 cents per person annually.
The fluoridation issue came before the Derby council during its “Listening” session on May 31. Anne Nelson of Derby requested the support for the issue then and again during the July 10 meeting.
Nelson is the associate executive director of the not-for-profit side of the Sedgwick County Medical Society. The non-profit Central Plains Health Care Partnership works to increase access to medical care and increase health outcomes, she said.
As a professional with that organization, Nelson said fluoride occurs naturally, but not at an optimum level which will help prevent tooth decay. If added to the water system, it will save the community $4.5 million in dental health costs, she said.
In addition, she talked as a community member and said she hopes her future family members will have “healthy smiles.”
The council also heard from Dr. Lucinda Rabin, a Wichita dentist who said fluoridation will “go a long way in minimizing tooth decay.” The initiative is expected to have a return of $38 in savings of dental treatment costs for every dollar spent.
“I’m here to urge you, as the largest single customer of the Wichita Water Department, to support this resolution,” Rabin said.
“In this economy, that $38 can really save millions of dollars,” said Sarah Dean, president of Wichita State University’s student chapter of the American Dental Hygiene Association.
She told the council that students host a tooth cleaning clinic at the college. She said many of their patients need dental work but do not have adequate income nor insurance. Fluoride would provide a strong foundation for their teeth, she said.
No one spoke against the issue.
Cheryl Bannon, council member, cautioned the community that fluoride is not a “cure all, end all,” solution to oral care.
“Fluoride is not a cure in and of itself,” she said. “It’s not up to your city to raise your children the appropriate way.”
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