Aspen Times Editorial: Keep fluoridating Snowmass water

Today is the deadline for Snowmass Water and Sanitation District customers to weigh in on the fate of fluoride in their drinking water. The water board will hear the responses at its Oct. 21 regular meeting.

In the time frame before that meeting, we hope the Snowmass water board can look at the science of fluoridation and let the facts do the talking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century due to a dramatic decline in tooth decay in the United States since the 1960s. Snowmass shouldn’t ignore a public health benefit such as this by turning back the clock on a sound scientific achievement.

Similar to the topic of vaccinations, water fluoridation has become an emotional one. Community members have sent passionate letters to the editor about the practice, both for and against, spurred by the water district’s July decision to stop adding fluoride to its water. The board began reconsidering its practice after a change in federal health recommendations issued in April that lowered the level of water fluoridation to 0.7 milligrams per liter — the level Snowmass already had been following.

Dentists and health professionals around the Roaring Fork Valley have voiced support for the practice, citing fluoride’s benefits in preventing cavities, one of the most chronic childhood diseases, according to one dental hygienist.

An Aspen dentist cited in a letter to the editor this week that fluoridation protects oral hygiene in both children and adults, noting that those who stand firmly against the practice can remove fluoride from their drinking water but not the other way around.

Pitkin County health officials stated in an Aspen Times story earlier this week their support for fluoridation. Pitkin County Director of Public Health Liz Stark said she’s concerned about the long-term oral health of Snowmass children and adults should the fluoride not to be returned to their water.

So-called science that debunks the practice is often unreliable and not peer-reviewed, said Dr. Kimberly Levin, an emergency room doctor at Aspen Valley Hospital and the county’s medical officer.

“Community water fluoridation is recommended by nearly all public health, medical and dental organizations, including the American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Public Health Service and the World Health Organization,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

U.S. surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy issued a statement about water fluoridation in the spring when the new federal guidelines were released. In it, he stated that fluoridation is the best method for delivering fluoride to all members of a community, regardless of access to dental care.

“As Surgeon General, I encourage all Americans to make choices that enable them to prevent illness and promote well-being,” the statement reads. “Community water fluoridation is one of the most practical, cost-effective, equitable and safe measures communities can take to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health.”

We urge one of the Snowmass water board members to step up and do what’s right for the community’s overall health. Those who believe fluoride has more health risks than benefits can remove it from their water if they choose. But don’t take a tried-and-true advancement in preventative health care away from the rest of the community.