A coalition of citizens, organizations and medical professionals has united to gather support for fluoridating Wichita water.
Wichitans for Healthy Teeth advocates adding additional fluoride to Wichita water; the same water most Derby residents drink.
“Wichita has become increasingly isolated as the fourth largest community in the nation without water fluoridation,” said Anne Nelson, a Derby resident who is actively involved in the fluoridation efforts.
In nature, fluoride occurs in small concentrations in water. Larger amounts of fluoride are regularly added to toothpaste, mouthwash and many foods and beverages.
Fluoride combines with saliva to neutralize acid in the mouth, strengthen teeth and protect them. After fluoride is ingested, it bonds with phosphate and calcium in the bloodstream to strengthen teeth internally.
Wichitans for Healthy Teeth advertises a projected 25 percent reduction in tooth decay and a corresponding $4.5 million savings from prevention of oral health problems if Wichita’s water supply were to be fluoridated.
Fluoridating a community water supply is considered by some to be a low-cost preventative method for tooth decay that reaches all residents, including low-income population segments at higher risk for dental problems, who often lack access to expensive dental care.
In order to produce positive dental health effects, fluoride concentration needs to be approximately 0.7 parts per million. Currently, Wichita’s water contains 0.33 ppm.
Derby purchases water from Wichita but performs independent water testing. The 2011 Water Consumer Confidence Report mailed to Derby residents reported a 0.32 ppm concentration of fluoride.
“The city of Derby takes a minimum of 25 [water] samples per month. These are sent to a state of Kansas lab for testing,” said Max Behrns, Derby water superintendent.
Advocates propose adding only enough fluoride to attain the optimum 0.7 ppm concentration. At higher levels, fluoride can have negative effects, including unsightly tooth staining and pitting.
“At the optimal level of 0.7 mg/1 ppm, there are no risks. Every reputable health authority agrees,” said Nelson.
This claim is supported by health science giants such as the CDC, American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatricians and others.
Derby City Council Member Heath Horyna works in water quality for the state and explained the fluoride concentration by sharing the visual that at current levels one in 1 million glasses of water would only be 30 percent full of fluoride. The proposed fluoridation measure would add only 30 percent more to that single representative glass of water.
The Kansas Health Foundation’s own fluoride awareness campaign touts the benefits of fluoridation. Citing reports from the Centers for Disease Control, the foundation states that 58 percent of Kansas third graders suffer from tooth decay that could presumably be lessened if Wichita’s water were fluoridated.
After previous efforts to fluoridate Wichita water failed to gain traction, fluoride advocates hope this time is different.
“It is a proven fact [that fluoride works] and there’s data to support that,” said Jim Craig, Derby city council member, at a recent meeting.
He urged the council to pass a resolution supporting the addition of fluoride to Wichita’s water.
For Nelson, while the support of nearly 500 Kansas medical professionals is important, the reason she advocates fluoridation is personal.
“I would have appreciated having fluoridated water while I was growing up in Wichita and I hope for something better for my future grandchildren,” she said. “I would love to watch them grow up with healthy, beautiful smiles.”
For additional information, go to www.wichitansforhealthyteeth.com or the Kansas Health Foundation’s website, www.fluoridefor.us.
What do you think? Comment on this story at www.derbyinformer.com. Next week – what the opposition to fluoridation says. July 11 – what other communities are doing about fluoridation, what is happening in the Wichita fluoridation effort and how you can be involved and have a say in the process.
"Have you all looked at the chart that comes occassionally in your water bill? Everything is within the limits but everything is right at the top limit! that is not acceptable there is no wiggle room and very likely it is over the limit more often than not. We need to demand water be at the maximum in the mid-range or less. Remember PPG and the chromium problem in California? Get our water cleaned up before you even think about adding fluoride!!!"