Combined efforts can help solve Hawaii’s oral health problems, says HFD’s John Bower
John Bower, the president of Hawaii Family Dental, called government institutions, dental providers, and stakeholders to combine efforts in initiating improvements for Hawaii’s oral health and oral care status.
Bower believes that there are a lot of opportunities to bring the standing of Hawaii up such as water fluoridation and government tracking of the people’s oral health situation.
In fact, Hawaii is one of the few states in the country whose community water remains unfluoridated. Water fluoridation only takes up 11 percent of Hawaii’s public water which is concentrated in military facilities.
Fluoridating community waters was first practiced in 1945 in Grand Rapids. Since then, more than 74 percent of the country is drinking fluoridated water. According to the American Dental Association, the incidence of tooth decay can be decreased by 20 to 40 percent
Despite data showing the positive implications of water fluoridation in reducing the chances of cavities, a vocal minority has opposed its implementation.
“We have 50 to 60 years of data showing water fluoridation decreases cavities. Still, there is a vocal minority who thinks we are poisoning the water through fluoridation. What we are really doing is fortifying the water for health reasons,” Bower said.
Hawaii has a high prevalence of tooth decay among third-grade children. About 71 percent of these children have had a history of tooth decay, while 22 percent of them have untreated tooth decay.
“I’m a little passionate about this because it’s our kids. They can’t speak for themselves. We have to do what is right for them and get them started on the right foot,” Bower added.
He also highlighted the need for an oral health surveillance survey which can track the oral health condition of the people and can be used as the basis for public health actions and program assessment of the state.
“We are one of the few states that don’t even have any sort of initiative from the government to actually track the oral health in the state over time. We don’t even know how we’re doing until somebody like The Pew comes in and does the study for us,” he said.