August 28, 2012
I have three children, one born in New York and two born in Portland. From the time when they were all young, my husband has commented that their teeth growth has been significantly affected by their water source in the formative years. Our first child drank fluoridated water for the first three years of their lives. Our second two children never did.
For our youngest, we don't yet know how the earliest years have affected his teeth, as he is only turning 3. For our middle child, she has already had carries and fillings, while our eldest seems to have the best oral health. This could also be a result of being the best tooth-brusher among them.
As educated parents (with ample health care coverage), we have swished, taken oral fluoride supplements prescribed by our pediatrician and used fluoride toothpaste. Even still, one of our children - born and raised in Portland - has suffered cavities.
My best estimation of what is happening in Portland and Oregon is that, indeed, "we are in a dental crisis". One in three of our children has untreated tooth decay, and one in five has "rampant decay", which is 7 or more cavities.
The impact on low-income communities and communities of color is disproportionate: African Americans have twice the rate of tooth decay than white counterparts, 72% of Native Americans have untreated cavities, 46% of Oregon's Latino children have untreated tooth decay. All these issues result in absenteeism and ultimately affects a child's success in school. This is a preventable childhood disease. Does the swishing work? Yes, but it doesn't help the children before kinder age. And also, what about swishing in the summer or what about teachers who might forget the swish or kids that just throw it out?
Sometimes I like to know who else is support a certain cause. This fluoridation effort, who else supports it, aside from health, dental, or medical organizations? Some other supporters include: Urban Leauge, Central City Concern, Children First for Oregon, p:ear, Native American Youth Association, Latino Network, African Women's Coaltion, and many more. (Full List Here in *pdf)
Commissioner Randy Leonard has been a supporter of this effort. The Portland City Council is holding a public hearing on water fluoridation next Tuesdsay, September 6, at 2pm in the City Hall Council Chambers. Interested in learning more? Please attend.
Representatives from the Everyone Deserves Healthy Teeth Coalition has reached out to me and has offered to offer a Q&A situation where we can have readers email questions and concerns, to see if we can find answers. For example: I, too, was concerned about the Harvard IQ study that is oft referenced, but - after chatting with other researchers and reading more online from a researcher-mom in Eugene - it sounds like the Harvard study is inconclusive. I have plenty of questions about fluorosis, and - after again talking with others - it sounds like fluorosis can happen at higher levels of fluoridation but not at the level used to prevent tooth decay (0.7mg/L). Do you have questions? Send them over to urbanMamas@gmail.com and we will see if we can find answers.
I have suggested that we gather a group of subject-matter experts - a dentist, a medical doctor, a naturopath, maybe even a teacher who has implented the swish program at schools - to field questions from mamas and papas. Interested in helping to coordinate this effort? Please email us at urbanMamas@gmail.com and we will put you in touch! Perhaps a playdate for parents and kids, where we have the opportunity to learn more?
Until then, keep talking, keep reading up on the issue, and keep informed. It seems highly likely that this effort will pass in Portland, and we - as parents - need to educate ourselves on all the facts as it relates to fluoridating our water.