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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 11, 2009 at 6:00 AM

Dental disease

A significant problem

A recent article about growing replacement teeth [“Chew on this: We’ll soon be able to grow replacement teeth,” page one, Jan. 6] correctly identified community-water fluoridation as a significant pubic-health measure that has, over a generation, drastically reduced dental disease.

It is estimated that more than 180 million Americans consume fluoridated water everyday because it is a public-health measure that saves far more money than it costs. More than 60 years of evidence has shown that water fluoridation is an effective way to improve one’s oral health. That is why water fluoridation is endorsed by health, medical and dental organizations across the county. Yet, in our state, fluoridated water is only available to about 59 percent of the population.

Dental disease is a significant problem in Washington. Studies show that nearly 60 percent of elementary-aged children have preventable dental decay, a leading cause of school absenteeism.

As we look for ways to reduce health-care costs, water fluoridation is a classic example of evidence-based prevention that will save money and improve health. The return on investment is significant. For most communities, every $1 invested in community water fluoridation saves $38 in dental-treatment costs. Policymakers who support efforts to reduce health-care costs should also support efforts to fluoridate the water. Everyone benefits from good oral health.

— Laura Smith, Seattle

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