In September, the city council in Spokane, Washington voted to approve a contract for a grant that puts 250,000 people on a path toward community water fluoridation (CWF). Spokane has the largest public water system in the state without the recommended level of fluoride for reducing the rate of tooth decay.
Dental health is a serious problem for many children or adults in Spokane. According to the regional health district, 1 in 5 Spokane third graders have experienced rampant decay, meaning seven or more teeth are decayed or have fillings. In addition, the pandemic has caused disruption of dental care and school-based dental services. As COVID-19 persists, communities with fluoridated water enable people at home to access a proven form of proven decay prevention.
The council’s decision instructs city officials to study the costs and logistics involved for Spokane to engage in CWF. Arcora Foundation*, a Seattle-based oral health philanthropic organization, has offered the city a $3 million grant to help Spokane fund the infrastructure costs for CWF. Nine other organizations have committed a total of roughly $1 million to assist the city with these costs.
On October 1, Mayor Nadine Woodward signed the contract to proceed with the cost study of CWF. A variety of milestones and deliverables are written into the contract.
CWF is a proven and smart return on investment. This 2016 study shows that the average savings in dental treatment exceeds $32 per-person, year after year. And that doesn’t even begin to measure time lost to school and work or to pain and suffering.
Congratulations to the people of Spokane, Washington.
*Arcora is a funder of the Campaign for Dental Health.