Tag Archives: fluoridation

Communities may see water fluoridation levels drop because of revised recommendations

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

waterStressing that community water fluoridation remains an important tool in fighting tooth decay, public health officials have updated their recommendation for the “optimal” level of fluoride in drinking water nationwide.

The new standard, 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water, was announced on April 27 by the U.S. Department of Human Services.

The level replaces a recommended range of 0.7 mg to 1.2 mg of fluoride per liter of water in place since 1962.

The optimal level, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is considered to be when the amount fluoride in drinking water is adequate to help prevent tooth decay in children and adults while limiting risk of problems such as fluorosis, a discoloration or mottling of the tooth enamel that can be caused by exposure to too much fluoride. Continue reading

Toolkit, scientists offer tips on covering oral health in rural communities

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Mobile dental clinic

Image by Michael Coghlan via flickr.

Want to know more about innovative dental care programs reaching rural areas? Curious about oral health disparities in isolated communities? Looking for rural health contacts, programs or statistics for your state?

You might want to check out a Rural Oral Health Toolkit just launched by the Rural Assistance Center, a rural health information portal established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Rural Initiative.

The toolkit is primarily geared toward helping rural communities set up successful and sustainable oral health programs. But it might just as easily serve as a source of story ideas and background for journalists covering rural places.

On the site you can learn about initiatives such as the “Into the Mouths of Babes” program. It addresses the shortage of Medicaid dentists in rural North Carolina by training physicians to apply fluoride varnishes to the teeth of small children.

You also can find out more about mobile clinic programs that have been successfully bringing screenings, education and care to children in isolated communities from Louisiana to South Dakota. There are school-based, dental home, community outreach and workforce auxiliary models as well. Elsewhere on RAC’s site, you can locate directories for rural hospitals and federally qualified health centers and state-by-state listings for rural health care resources. Continue reading

Debate over fluoridation rages on: What reporters need to know

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Fluoride opposition sign in Portland, Ore.

Photo by Neal Jennings.

“Portland and its aversion to fluoride reflects Oregon’s unusual politics”

That was the headline that ran over Oregonian writer Jeff Mapes’ May 22 election story.

“In 2011, the board of the Santa Clara Valley [Calif.] Water District voted to begin fluoridating water for about 850,000 customers in and around San Jose. Anti-fluoride activists grumbled but realized they didn’t have the resources to take their fight to the public.

“That’s sure not what happened in Portland, which once again showed that this far northwest corner of the country is willing to go where other parts of the country rarely tread.

“Activists packed the City Council chambers to protest the decision to go ahead with fluoridation and then collected more than 40,000 signatures in a month to place the issue on the ballot. And then, putting together a campaign organization on the fly, they won in a walk – despite being outspent three to one.

“Whether we’re talking about how to fight tooth decay or insisting that someone else pump our gas, Oregonians’ fierce independence and easy access to a Wild West system of direct democracy creates a different civic culture here.”

In the midst of just one of the fluoride debates brewing around the country last fall, Portland’s city council voted 5-0 to approve the fluoridation of the city’s water supply.

Public health advocates cheered. But fluoride opponents swore they would fight on. And they prevailed big time. Continue reading

Battles over water fluoridation spread across the country

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

As the election returns rolled in, armies of reporters across the country went to work exploring the fate of candidates in local state and national races.

Annie Calovich of The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle had the task of exploring the fate of fluoride.

Mary OttoMary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to mary@healthjournalism.org.

The city’s hotly contested fluoride initiative, backed by local doctors and dentists, but strongly opposed by anti-fluoride activists, went down to defeat on Nov 6. Voters in city of Wichita rejected fluoridated water as they did in 1964 and 1978.

All over the country, jurisdictions are fighting over fluoride. In September, the city council in Portland, Ore., voted to fluoridate city drinking water in an effort to reduce tooth decay. In August, Milwaukee reduced the level of fluoride in its water after a city alderman launched a campaign to completely eliminate it. A year ago, in a decision that also had implications in Nov. 6 elections, Pinellas County, Fla., commissioners voted to stop adding fluoride to drinking water (more about that in a minute.)

Public health officials and state and local dental groups stand up for community fluoridation, which has been hailed by the Centers for Disease Control as one of the great public health achievements of the 20th century. For more than 65 years, communities across the United States have been supplementing naturally occurring fluoride in water supplies to promote oral health. At what are considered optimum levels, numerous studies have shown fluoride reduces cavities.

But too much fluoride can be a bad thing, public health officials have acknowledged. Consumption at excess levels may cause fluorosis and skeletal deformities, research has found. Continue reading

Fluoridation debate continues across the country

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Is there a fluoride debate in your future?

Public health advocates hailed the 5-0 vote by the Portland, Ore., city council on Sept. 12 approving the fluoridation of the city’s water supply. Fluoride opponents jeered and swore they would fight on.

Until the vote, Portland had been the largest U.S. city that had a non-fluoridated water system. The story was all over the evening news.

Here is how NPR’s Kristian Foden-Vencil handled the decision, in a piece that came out of a reporting partnership that included NPR, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Kaiser Health News.

Mary OttoMary Otto, AHCJ’s topic leader on oral health is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover oral health care.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to mary@healthjournalism.org.

He spoke with Kim Kaminski, of Clean Water Portland, a group which is battling the introduction of fluoride in Portland’s water.

“She cited studies to support her cause,” Foden-Vencil reported. “Perhaps the most worrisome was a 2006 Harvard study. A key finding:

“For males less than 20 years old, fluoride levels in drinking water during growth is associated with an increased risk of osteosarcoma.”

“Osteosarcoma is a bone cancer.”

But he also sought out Dr. Catherine Hayes of Health Resources in Action, an adviser to the 2006 study and co-author of a follow-up study and deconstructed the finding.

Hayes told Foden-Vencil that in the second study, “the researchers looked at samples of bone from people who had the cancer – instead of just gathering information about previous cases of the disease, as the first study had done,” Foden-Vencil reported. The researchers concluded there was no link between osteosarcoma and fluoride.

“There was no difference in the amount of fluoride in the bone,” Hayes said. “That’s really significant, because now we’re not estimating fluoride intake, we’re really measuring it.”

There is sure to be another story. Fluoride opponents have pledged to gather enough signatures to place the issue on a future election ballot.

There are stories to be written elsewhere. Phoenix, Ariz., just voted to continue fluoridating its water. Fluoridation will be put to a public vote on Nov. 6 in Wichita, Kan. In Missouri, St. Louis and St. Charles have reduced the amount of fluoride added to the city’s water supply. In Canada, the town of Red Deer, Alberta, “will decide next month whether to reduce, increase or eliminate fluoride in drinking water.” Officials in Santa Fe, N.M., are considering putting the fluoridation issue to a vote.

Are communities you cover considering fluoridation or perhaps reducing or eliminating fluoride from the water supply?