On Tuesday, Liz Stark, Pitkin County public health director, told the county’s board of health, which consists of the Pitkin County commissioners, Aspen city council member Ann Mullins, and Snowmass Village Mayor Markey Butler, that tooth decay is 100 percent preventible. She added that fluoridation is the most effective and affordable way to eradicate cavities and “reaches all sectors of the population regardless of their oral health habits or their ability to seek dental care.”
“No one is immune from getting this illness,” she said. “Preventing it can be challenging even in the most affluent communities.”
Stark noted that dental insurance is very expensive, and just because a person has it doesn’t mean they have access to good care. She added that many people don’t connect oral heath with overall physical well-being.
“We do know there’s a disconnect with how people value their oral health and how it relates to their overall health,” she said. “People are just getting it now that, what happens in your mouth does affect what happens to the rest of your body.”[…]
Stark said a community survey conducted in Snowmass Village earlier this year showed that 64 percent of respondents were in support of fluoridation.
A focus for care was on the lower-income residents of the valley, 25 percent of whom live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
In Colorado, 72.4 percent of the communities have access to fluoridated water, according to a 2012 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Stark said that children living in areas with fluoridation have a reduced number of cavities.
“For example, in Silt and Rifle where there is no fluoridation in their water, approximately 30 percent of those children have dental cavities,” she said. “Whereas the children who live in Glenwood Springs or Aspen, that do have fluoridated water, the rate is about 10 to 17 percent. So that is a significant difference.”
Dr. Kim Levin, Pitkin County medical officer, said the anti-fluoridation groups have created fear about the practice and its link to osteosarcoma (bone cancer), lower IQ, and Down syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. But she added that people need to look at the variables in each of the studies.
“For instance, the IQ study was at the Harvard School of Public Health with the China Medical University and included 8,000 school children,” she said. “Now in China, there are communities with very high levels of fluoride. … This study concluded overall that IQ was lowered by seven points in communities that had high fluoride in it. Some of these communities have more than 20 times the level of fluoride that we have in our water.”[…]
Tom Dunlop, county environmental public health advocate, said there are undocumented emotional and psychological costs associated with poor dental health that can be devastating to children.
“Loss of self-esteem by children who have such bad dental hygiene that they become reclusive, or they [feel] socially unacceptable,” he said. “They’re not going to be as active as a person that doesn’t have that kind of thing going on with them.”
Levin added that every dollar spent in fluoridation saves $38 in dental costs.
“Again, that doesn’t quantify all of these other psycho-social costs and medical issues that result from poor dental care,” she said.