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Local dentist: Jonesborough BMA shouldn't base fluoride decision on misinformation

Zach Vance • Updated Apr 12, 2016 at 8:12 PM

A local Jonesborough dentist said Tuesday the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman should base its decision to remove fluoride from the town’s water system on facts and not misinformation. 

The board will hold a public hearing concerning the fluoride’s removal prior to its regularly scheduled June 13 meeting. 

“I don’t have anything to gain from this,” said Dr. Allen Burleson, a Johnson City native who practiced dentistry for 34 years. “I just want what’s best for the community. They’re doing it right, they’re putting it out to let the public voice their opinions.” 

Burleson said research from the American Dental Association shows every $1 a city spends on water fluoridation saves individuals $38 in dental treatment costs. 

“If you took (fluoride) out, the amount of money spent (on dental) by individuals would be astronomical,” Burleson said. 

According to information provided during the board’s meeting, the town of Jonesborough spends $12,000 a year adding fluoride to drinking water. 

“Like I said, the CDC says there is 20 to 40 percent increase in tooth decay in communities among people who don’t have access to fluoride water.” said Dr. David Kirschke, Northeast Tennessee Regional Health medical director.

During Monday’s meeting, Alderman David Sell said “I researched this, and from what I read there’s absolutely no benefit now in having that in drinking water. Actually, it’s kind of dangerous almost, and it’s costly.” 

Burleson said those were false statements and he plans on meeting with the Board of Mayor and Alderman prior to the June meeting in order “give them facts.” 

Kirschke said since the 1950s and 1980s when Tennessee began implementing fluoride in cities’ water across the state, decay in children’s permanent teeth decreased 75 percent. 

A study published by the World Health Organization mentions some of the adverse effects from overexposure to fluroride.

“Fluoride has beneficial effects on teeth at low concentrations in drinking water, but excessive exposure to fluoride in drinking water, or in combination with exposure to fluoride from other sources, can give rise to a number of adverse effects. These range from mild dental fluorosis to crippling skeletal fluorosis as the level and period of exposure increases. Crippling skeletal fluorosis is a significant cause of morbidity in a number of regions of the world,” the WHO study said. 

Studies have shown higher levels of fluoride increase the risk of dental fluorosis, a white or brown staining of the teeth. The most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control shows nearly 41 percent of children age 12 to 15 had fluorosis.

Kirschke said fluorosis does not come from the fluoride in the water, but if kids are getting it from other sources, it will add up. 

“There are some recommendations that if you have fluoride in you water, you have to limit the amount of fluoride you intake,” Kirschke said. 

According to Jonesborough’s 2015 water quality report, the average level of fluoride was 0.67 milligrams per liter of water. 

In 2015, for the first time in more than 50 years, the Department of Heath and Human Services lowered the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water from between 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams per liter to not exceed 0.7 milligrams per liter.

“I’m not drawing a line and trying to go to war,” Burleson said. “Jonesborough is just trying to do what’s best for them, and I think they’ll eventually do what’s right.” 

Burleson said he has had very few complaints from his dental patients concerning fluoride in drinking water, and those who do are typically sensitive to it. 

All water contains low levels of fluoride.  

Email Zach Vance at zvance@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Zach Vance on Twitter @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP

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