Opinion

The News Tribune: Fluoridation: Where the Real Tax Savings Are

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I was in my middle twenties before I knew what a cavity was. My friends had them; I almost felt left out.

I happened to have spent my early years in Madison, Wis., one of the first cities to have its water supply fluoridated.

Our editorial today argues for restoring Medicaid dental coverage for poor adults. That would cost the state something on the order of $30 million and the federal government more, since it would be paying for a further expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Total Medicaid dental in Washington could come in at something north of $90 million per biennium.

That cost might be pared in the future if all of Washington's cities adopted fluoridation, which the U.S. Centers for Disease controls has called “one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” One study cited by the American Dental Association estimates that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 worth of dentistry later.

Close to two-thirds of Washingtonians benefit from fluoridated drinking water, but a few bastions of enlightenment – including Olympia, Spokane and Bellingham – remain holdouts.

Lakewood is a special case. Voters in the Lakewood Water District voted to fluoridate the system's water in 2004, but the district's commissioners – who'd put the measure on the ballot – refused to do it.

It's not worth arguing with fluoridation opponents. If the pro-fluoride stances of the CDC, American Dental Association, World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics and International Association of Dental Research (among others) don't impress them, nothing will.