Just when you think you’ve recovered from the sugar crash of Halloween, the parade of pumpkin pies, sweet potato casserole and cranberry dressing show up to prolong your sweetened holiday stupor. In these times of sugary excess, we at San Juan Basin Health feel especially thankful for fluoridated water in our community and the positive effects it has on oral health.
Without fluoridated water in our box of cavity prevention tools, frequent brushings, dental visits and diet are what we’re left with. This may sound like enough to aid in tooth decay prevention, but unfortunately, not everyone in our community has access to healthy foods, nutrition education or can afford dental appointments.
Fluoridated water plays a major role in oral health for these populations. Accepted scientific knowledge confirms the safety and effectiveness of water fluoridation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers it one the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. No matter someone’s economic status, fluoridated tap water is in their toolbox and their health outcomes are better.
It’s simple: Good health starts with oral health. Without fluoridated water, we risk having underserved populations bearing the brunt of poor health. As a community, we need to lessen the burden of social health determinants, not enhance.
A pillar to the work we do at San Juan Basin Health is health equity – ensuring every individual in our community has the opportunity for their best potential of health. In regards to oral health, we provide free nutrition counseling services through our Promotor program, our Women, Infants, and Children program sets up low income families with debit cards to purchase supplemental healthy foods, and our dental clinic was the primary provider in Durango to accept Medicaid insurance for adults. In July, we transferred these services to Axis Health System so the clinic could grow in capacity, ensuring our clients in Durango would continue to have an affordable office for their dental needs.
SJBH will continue oral health outreach in the form of the Regional Oral Health Specialist Program, which includes regional community coalition work and hygiene services for youth in local schools and Head Start. Our hygienist will visit Bayfield Elementary on Nov. 10 and 15, Bayfield Primary on Nov. 17, and Ignacio Elementary on Dec. 13 and 15. The collaboration between school nurses and our school-based hygienist has not only kept kids from missing class due to painful oral problems, but provided much-needed care they wouldn’t have received otherwise.
SJBH is committed to providing these public health services and to advocating for fluoridated water, an integral part of the foundation of improving health for all. For more information on our programs and services, visit sjbhd.org.
Lauren Pope is an assessment, planning and communications specialist at San Juan Basin Health.