I wrote an Op-Ed last fall (Herald, Sept. 4) applauding the city’s decision to continue with fluoridation. I wrote about a toddler girl. I had to remove all her front teeth because they were so badly decayed. She hugged me afterward; she was finally free from her pain. She grew up without community water fluoridation.
Over my 12 years as a dentist, I wish I could say that her severe decay was unique. But as my work has taken me around the world, for too many children living without the benefits of fluoride, it is the norm.
I also do research on how a concept called “social proof” is often more powerful than scientific proof. For example, the myth that vaccines cause autism has no scientific merit. It was started from a fraudulent study in the ’90s that was retracted, and the author lost his license to practice medicine. Nonetheless, the social proof of people sharing their concerns on the internet continues to give the myth power.
Babies were hospitalized with measles in 2014 during the largest U.S. outbreak we’ve seen in a generation. That’s the danger of social proof: People share something, someone you know shares it, people you like share it and soon, you start to believe vaccines cause autism – no science required.
Our country was founded on the principles of personal freedom and personal responsibility. That freedom of responsibility also means preventing a small group of individuals from taking actions that would cause harm to the community as a whole.
Ending fluoridation in Durango would have damaging consequences. Allowing social proof to override the science of public health puts our children in hospitals, with measles, and for dental care under general anesthesia because they are too young or too small to have their cavities treated safely in the dental chair.
I hope, and believe, that Durango will continue to protect our children and community, and value the science of fluoridation. As a researcher, a public health dentist and a mom, I hope Durango residents will drink the water, not the Kool-Aid. Vote against 1A.
Brittany Seymour, DDS, MPH
Editor’s Note: Brittany Seymour is a 1997 graduate of Durango High School and professor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Reach her at email@example.com.