“No” is still Hawaii’s answer to the recommendations of adding fluoride to its community water system. Yet, an alarming prevalence of tooth decay continues to plague its young population.
The oral health report sponsored by the State Health Department has shown 71 percent of tooth decay prevalence among children. This is higher by 19 percent than the national average of 52 percent. Even worse, it is the highest among all 50 states. The report screened 3,184 third graders in 67 public schools and found thaat seven in every ten children have tooth decay.
According to the American Dental Association, through drinking fluoridated water, the incidence of tooth decay could have been reduced by 20 to 40 percent. Former president of Hawaii Dental Association Dr. Steve Wilhite even says that the prevalence of tooth decay could have been lower by 50 percent in about ten years.
Still, Hawaii’s resolution to maintain the lack of fluoride in its water remains firm. It is so firm that the Honolulu City Council and Lanai Water Co. rejects the move to fluoridate the public water system.
Twelve years after, council member Ann Kobayashi who voted in favor of the measure to ban fluoridated water has not changed her mind. “Many people like pure things — without chemicals,” she says.
Critics of fluoridation have continuously used the “chemical” card to convince people to join their cause. For them, the naturally-occurring compound is a chemical that has a history of killing houseplants and koi. However, all these claims do not have substantial evidence.
On the flip side, the American Dental Association says that drinking fluoridated water is cost-effective and safe. Health agencies like the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also endorse water fluoridation.
Fluoride gives the teeth added protection against acid attacks and plaque bacteria. Additionally, it prevents the wear of the enamel and strengthens it from demineralization.
“It has been validated by tens of millions of people since 1945 in Grand Rapids,” Dr. Maxine Feinberg, president of the Association says.
Water fluoridation has been present in the United States since Grand Rapids in 1945. At present, more than 74 percent of the country are receiving fluoridated water.
However, in Hawaii where tooth decay has staggering figures, only 11 percent or less than 160,000 people out of more than 1,419,000 residents enjoy the benefits of fluoridated water. Thus, this makes the state rank last regarding fluoridation percentage.
Kobayashi maintains that using fluoride should be choice. “We should not force people because we can always add it. Get fluoride drops, and add it to your drinking water,” she says.
But not all can do that. Although fluoride treatments are available, they are often costly for low-income families who are more susceptible to dental problems.