School Nurses Voice Concern After County Ends Fluoridation

Posted & filed under Children's Oral Health and Fluoride, Communities Supporting Fluoride, What the Experts Say about Fluoride.

When officials in Collier County, Florida, recently voted to end fluoridation, dental professionals and pediatricians weren’t the only people who were disheartened. School nurses were concerned too. School nurses see firsthand the negative impact that chronic disease, of which tooth decay is one, has on children’s ability to attend school and learn.

After the county’s board of commissioners made its decision, leading voices from the school nursing community went on social media to express their professional concerns. Martha Bergren, executive editor of the Journal of School Nursing, called Collier County’s vote the “latest anti-science decision” that will negatively affect children’s health, reminding us that drinking fluoridated tap water reduces decay by 25%.

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) shared Bergren’s message on its social media account. NASN’s message included the hashtag #healthequity, and for good reason. A 2021 report by the National Institutes of Health writes that water fluoridation “can especially benefit children in low-income families.”

Although Collier County is known as the home of affluent communities, about 40,000 of its residents live at or below the poverty line. This places them at higher risk for oral health problems and increases the difficulty of accessing professional dental care. For many children in low-income households, fluoridated water is the primary form of disease prevention they receive. Without it, they are at greater risk of cavities which, if left untreated, will only worsen.

The decision to cease fluoridation in a community is often justified with information that is false, misleading or incomplete. This was true in Collier County. Before the board of commissioners took its vote, Commissioner Daniel Kowal made his case. In his remarks, Kowal named Australia as one of the countries that do not engage in water fluoridation. This is false. In fact, 89% of the Australians have access to drinking water that contains the recommended level of fluoride.

It is laudable that school nurses are doing their part to raise awareness of the need for community-level prevention. And NASN has many excellent resources for its members on its Oral Health Connections web page. School nurses are trusted, vital partners in educating families and the public to raise awareness of fluoride’s benefits. We thank them for raising their voices to highlight the effect of public policy decisions on the health of the children and families they serve.