State and county health experts touted the benefits of fluoride in front of the Durango Utilities Commission on Monday.
For more than 50 years, the federal government has recommended adding fluoride to drinking water because it can prevent teeth demineralization.
The local effort to eliminate fluoride from drinking water has been lead by Jim Forleo, a chiropractor who said too much fluoride can have negative effects such as joint pain.
“They are giving us a drug without our consent,” he said.
However, the panel argued fluoridation helps strengthen teeth and lower the average number of cavities in adults and children.
“This is one of the most cost-effective prevention strategies you can develop,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s executive director and chief medical officer.
Community water fluoridation is a primary attack against cavities, and it promotes healthy teeth development, especially among children in poorer communities who have limited access to dental care, he said.
While many factors including diet contribute to cavities, the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water helps lower acidity in the mouth.
“It’s constantly bathing the teeth to counteract that demineralization,” said James Sutherland.
In the meeting, fluoride opponents, countered that while a certain amount of fluoride may be safe, shouldn’t the weight and medical condition of the person help determine the appropriate dose.
“At what point do we know what the dosage is?”asked Jane Burnier.
In April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended lowering the dosage of fluoride because so many people are exposed to it in toothpaste and mouthwash.
The Utilities Commission will talk about how to structure the decision-making process in February. It could make a recommendation as early as March, Chairman John Ballew said. But the commission is not on a set timetable.
Once a recommendation is made, Durango City Council will have the final say because fluoridation is not required by any government agency.
“This is your decision to make,” Wolk said.