Kansas Dentist on Advocacy: “It was my duty.”

Posted & filed under Children's Oral Health and Fluoride, Communities Supporting Fluoride, Fight a Rollback Attempt.

On Monday, May 13, the city commission in Abilene, Kansas, voted to reinstate water fluoridation after having voted a few weeks earlier to end the practice. The turnaround didn’t happen on its own. Local health professionals, spearheaded by Dr. Beatrice Brittan — an Abilene dentist — played a pivotal role in the commission’s decision to reverse itself. In this blog article, Dr. Brittan explains what motivated her to get involved.

As a professional, part of our responsibility is to step up and lead those in our community when matters of dental public health arise. We all took the required public health courses in dental school. We all probably expected to be “the face” of our own dental offices. I knew I’d be “putting myself out there” when taking over a new practice, but never did I imagine I would be the face of a movement to safeguard a public health service that has been in place in my hometown for three decades. Study after study shows that children and adults who drink fluoridated water have stronger teeth that are less at risk of decay.

When our city commission voted to stop our water fluoridation, I knew I had no choice but to advocate for its return. It was my duty. What kind of dental professional would I be if I had done nothing? I wouldn’t trust a dentist who did not get personally involved in advocating for such a crucial matter of public health in their own hometown.

Our primary hurdle was a lack of education and understanding. I had a lot of support from my state dental association and dental advocacy groups. There are so many more pro-fluoridation advocates out there than anti-fluoridation conspiracy theorists. I took on the burden of speaking publicly and privately to those who could make a change, encouraging fellow health professionals in town to provide their own advisement, and organizing a response to our city commission’s decision.

We were able to have the vote overturned. It was hard work, but the health of my practice and my individual patients is better off for it. I am a better dental provider for having done this kind of advocacy work and the amount of people who have personally approached me with sincere gratitude has further cemented my belief that this was the right fight to take on.