Cities may be required to fluoridate drinking water - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Cities may be required to fluoridate drinking water

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) – Members of the Arkansas House of Representatives Wednesday approved legislation that would require certain water services to add fluoride into the liquid. The bill was approved on a 56-35 vote. Now the measure goes before Governor Mike Beebe for final approval.

Opponents of the bill said fluoridation should be decided by municipalities and said other health effects of fluoride are unknown. Supporters said the measure would give children healthier smiles and teeth.

"Fluoride is found naturally in water and food so we get it from a lot of different sources," said Alan Ainley, DDS. "There are certain minerals that make up the tooth enamel. Calcium is in it. Phosphorus, sometimes fluoride can make the outside surface of the tooth harder and more resistant to cavities."

The bill, endorsed by Sen. David Johnson, D-Little Rock, would require water systems that serve more than 5,000 people to add fluoride into the supply. Paragould and Jonesboro are two systems in northeast Arkansas that already adds the mineral to water.

"It was made to protect the citizens of Paragould and to provide them with good quality drinking water and to make sure it was safe for their consumption and to their benefit," said Lisa Ellington, Environmental Services Manager for Paragould Light Water and Cable. "When we fluoridate the water, we get it to the levels which are actually beneficial to the customers. All drinking water actually has fluoride in it, but it's not at the levels they would actually receive the benefits from it."

Ellington said many people do not get the health benefits from fluoride when they drink bottled water.

"They can tell it because of the tooth decay, tooth loss, things like that. That's how dentists can tell people who are drinking fluoridated water and who's not," said Ellington. "The incidences of tooth decay are actually going up because people are drinking this bottled water instead of their water that comes out of their tap."

"We see kids that have fluoride in their water supply that live here in town, but we also see kids that are out in the county that don't have the availability of fluoride in their water," said Ainley. "If fluoride was added to the water, then we'd have a lot less kids with a lot less cavities."

According to the Arkansas Department of Health, 65% of Arkansans have access to fluoridated water. It also indicated almost 30% of adults over 65 years old have lost all their teeth. 61% of children under 9 years old already have experienced some sort of tooth decay.

"A lot of kids that are on well water or their water sources don't have fluoride, we do see more decay," said Ainley. "When you look at public health, the vast cost involved in trying to take care of some folks, if we can prevent that disease from starting in the first place, it should save the public a lot of money."

Ainley said residents who don't receive fluoridated water can purchase fluoride drops from a pediatrician or dentist. He said he only purchases toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association and include fluoride.

"Enamel is the hardest surface of the tooth. Actually it's the hardest surface in your body. And that enamel surface can de-mineralize if it's exposed to acid," said Ainley. "When you eat, the bacteria eats too. It throws off an acid that can de-mineralize the surface of the enamel."

Ainley said fluorosis is the only harmful aspect of fluoride. He said too much fluoride can make teeth brittle.

"We normally don't have to worry about that. When we put the fluoride in the water, it's put in an amount that's optimum for health," said Ainley. "People do have a fear, and what we try to do is educate them, give them the information so that they can make an informed decision."

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