Letter to the editor: Fluoridation is the best way to protect Bennington's teeth

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Fluoridation is the best way for teeth

Let me tell you why the townspeople made a mistake when they voted against adding fluoride to the water system. A Vermont Department of Health study in 2014 showed that Bennington school children had among the worst teeth in the state. Look around and you will see how this translates to our adults. Teeth should last a lifetime, but they don't in Bennington. One of the reasons is that kids do not get consistent exposure to low levels of fluoride. Community water fluoridation is known to be safe and effective. It reduces tooth decay by about 25 percent. Despite what the antifluoridationists have claimed, there are no serious complications.

Knowing that community water fluoridation would not happen here in the near future, we tried something else. Fluoride varnish applied to a child's teeth can be beneficial. It is known to reduce tooth decay by about 30 percent. It takes a few minutes for a health professional to apply it, and its effect can last up to 6 months. As a public health service, we invited parents of children aged 1-6 to bring their children to the Left Bank in North Bennington on a Saturday morning to have the varnish applied. In particular, we were targeting children age 1-3 because they usually have not gotten in to see a local dentist. To advertise the program, we used all forms of local media and even sent postcards to families of 1-3 year olds. On varnish day we had many volunteers: Two doctors (Avery Wood and myself), 1 dental hygienist (Meg Outwater), two nurses (Ellen Goepel, Grace Winslow), three helpers (Nevin Lessard, Rosemarie Pelletier, Shanely Marmolejos), and Amy Anselmo from the Left Bank. Several other people played a smaller part, including school nurses and Head Start workers. I am grateful to all of them. Our team was ready to treat 120 kids, but alas only 10 children came.

On this day in May, we were unsuccessful in promoting and delivering public health even though we tried our best. We spent much time and effort putting our program together, but it failed because parents did not realize the significant benefit of fluoride varnish and didn't take advantage of the program. We do not and probably never will have enough volunteers to make a meaningful difference if we continue to focus on the individual child. The best solution is to make community water fluoridation the cornerstone of improved oral health for Bennington so that all children will benefit.

— G. Richard Dundas, MD Bennington


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