The Morning Call
Allentown, Pennsylvania
This article is © The Morning Call Newspaper Company

Date: Monday, December 11, 2000
Page: A11 
Edition: FIRST 
Section: COMMENT 


By DAVID SATCHER, Special to The Morning Call - Freelance 

Oral disease in Pennsylvania and elsewhere in our nation is a silent epidemic that has reached significant proportions and must be addressed by our leaders, medical and dental personnel and the general public.

 This is precisely why it is in the best interests of one of the nation's most populous states to pursue community water fluoridation. Fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health over a lifetime.

 A recent conference in Sacramento of health experts from throughout the nation, including representatives from my office, shared ideas on ways to increase fluoridation. Now they are acting on this national call by raising awareness about the benefits of fluoridation in their communities and other states.

 My recently released report to the nation, "Oral Health in America," cites community water fluoridation as a safe, effective and ideal public-health measure that benefits individuals of all ages and economic strata.

 All reliable scientific evidence points to the positive impact of water fluoridation in preventing dental disease and tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century -- an inexpensive means of improving oral health that benefits all residents of a community, young and old, rich and poor.

 The positive influences of community water fluoridation among children are well-documented. More than 40 years of scientific research has found that people living in communities with fluoridated water have healthier teeth and 40 percent fewer cavities than those living where the water is not fluoridated.

 This is particularly true during child growth periods when dietary and home-care diversions place children at greater risk for dental caries (tooth decay).

 Today, with a program in Allentown marking the milestone, it is admirable that Allentown has joined the ranks of neighboring fluoridated communities of Bethlehem and Easton, and I commend policy makers and others for this progress in responding to the oral health crisis.

 Efforts like these will help to end this "silent epidemic" of oral diseases affecting our most vulnerable citizens -- poor children, the elderly and many members of racial and ethnic minority groups. It should serve as a wake-up call to us all.

(David Satcher is the 16th surgeon general of the United States. He is only the second person in history to simultaneously hold the positions of surgeon general and assistant secretary of health. His report, "Oral Health in America," was released on May 25, 2000 and can be accessed via the Internet at