Tapping into Colorado’s Latest News on Fluoride

Krysia GabenskiFeatured News

From the Fall 2015 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Community water fluoridation has continued as a hot topic across Colorado this past summer. From Denver to Snowmass and Montrose to Hayden, fluoridated drinking water was debated and reviewed by cities and water providers—and proponents worked to make their case that community water fluoridation is one of our state’s top public health benefits.

Perhaps the loudest conversation focused on Denver Water, as the state’s largest water system reviewed its fluoridation policy and ultimately decided to continue optimal fluoridation of the system’s drinking water. The review was triggered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recently updated guidelines on recommended fluoridation levels to prevent decay.

Denver Water’s board wanted its review to receive as much public input as possible. Board members received thousands of letters, articles, and scientific and health studies regarding fluoridation. The board also held a public information hearing where fluoridation proponents and opponents were able to address board members and staff, and answer questions from Denver Water’s commissioners.

Colorado Dental Association immediate past president Dr. Brett Kessler—who lives and practices in Denver—presented alongside oral health experts Dr. William Bailey of the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine, and Dr. Katya Mauritson, dental director and Oral Health Program manager at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. They focused on fluoridation’s role in building healthy communities and how drinking fluoridated water positively impacts all consumers despite diverse ages, backgrounds and socioeconomic levels.

“As the largest water provider in Colorado, serving more than 1.3 million people in the city of Denver and surrounding suburbs, Denver Water sets the standard for water quality and policies for our state,” Dr. Kessler said after the board’s final decision to retain community water fluoridation. “The board clearly made the right decision in the interest of our community’s public health to continue fluoridating our water according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines and in line with demonstrated scientific and health research.”

Key Colorado leaders and organizations joined with the CDA and other oral and public health advocates to register broad-based support for fluoridation. Governor Hickenlooper, who has placed oral health as a top concern of his administration, and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, which has long focused on health and wellness in its role in growing Colorado’s economy, were among those to voice their support to the board. The Denver Post, in a Sunday editorial, also weighed in, calling on Denver Water to “stick with fluoride.”

As Denver Water remained on course, fluoridation fell under pressure in several other Colorado towns. The Snowmass Water and Sanitation District board decided to stop fluoridating the resort community’s water this summer, but is reviewing that decision in light of community pushback. An effort led by Snowmass dentist Dr. Karina Redko is currently taking place to provide fact-based information to the community. A final decision is expected this fall.

The small mountain town of Hayden, west of Steamboat Springs, will have a November ballot question, asking local voters if they want to discontinue the city’s long-standing policy of fluoridating its water. Several local dentists, hygienists, health advocates and the Northwest Dental Coalition are working together to build a pro-fluoride campaign to educate the community.

Durango, just before the unfortunate Animas River mining spill, announced a review of its fluoridation policy by its utility commission and is expected to start the discussion in November. Fluoride proponents are working to form a strategy prior to the meeting to advocate for the continuation of the policy.

In the Montrose area, several dentists and health professionals, led by Montrose dentist Dr. Sharlene Martinson, continue to work with the Project 7 Water Authority to return fluoridated drinking water to Montrose, Delta, Olathe and its surrounding communities.

Throughout this process, the CDA remains committed to fluoridation as a critical public health benefit—and as a critical part of the association’s commitment to improving access to oral health across our state. The CDA is looking forward to continued support for fluoridation across Colorado and hopes that Denver Water’s leadership and recent decision will enhance the standing of water fluoridation as a safe, effective and trusted way to reduce decay and support all communities and residents of Colorado.

The CDA is Here to Help!
If your community is questioning water fluoridation or its safety, please let the CDA know. The CDA in partnership with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, and Oral Health Colorado have a Rapid Response Team that can quickly address statewide issues regarding fluoride policy and advocacy. We also have resources and talking points to help educate communities on scientifically proven fact regarding the safety and effectiveness of community water fluoridation. Contact Molly Pereira at molly@cdaonline.org or 303-996-2844.