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Lake Delton eliminates fluoride from drinking water prompting criticism from local dentists

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LAKE DELTON (WKOW) -- When families across Lake Delton turn on their taps, they likely won't notice a difference, but dentist David Clemens said he will in a few months.

Head of Dells Dental, having 40 years of experience in dentistry along with decades of research and work with the U.S. Public Health Service has shown him the impact fluoride can have on dental health.

That's why Clemens said he was disappointed to learn the village board voted to stop using the chemical without consulting him first.

"I was very upset when that this happened," he said. "Right in my back door without me knowing about it."

Clemens said he even worked with some of the board members years ago when the village began using fluoride.

"It's a safe effective measure used to prevent dental decay mostly in children," he said.

Fluoride has been used as an additive to drinking water in various municipalities across the United States for 70 years, but Lake Delton Village President John Webb said local concerns made the board reconsider.

"It came from the water operator because of the hazardous nature of the material," he said. "If it happens to get mixed wrong at the water station it could harm one of our staff members."

Webb said one board member voted against the measure but the rest agreed it seemed the risks of fluoride outweighed the benefits.

Clemens said he wished he got the chance to respond to some of those concerns.

"I actually worked with fluoride systems when I lived in Alaska. I would go out to small villages and investigate their systems to make sure they were working properly," he said. "When we talk about the fluorine that's added we have to keep in mind it's a very tiny amount."

Clemens said he's never heard of a city using more than .7 parts per million, which is recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He said tap water often contains more chloride and other minerals.

"People don't die," he said. "People don't have diseases caused by it. There is no disease caused by fluorine in water."

He also said this won't eliminate fluorine from most of the Villager's daily lives. He said most toothpastes have fluoride in more concentrated amounts, most bottle waters add the chemical as well and any water coming from lakes or wells will have some naturally occurring fluoride.

"It does not cause brain cancer. It does not cause bone cancer," Clemens said. "It doesn't cause lower I.Q."

According to the village the budget didn't factor into the decision as the additive costs less than $10,000 annually. Meanwhile Clemens said his office may see an uptick in business.

"There was a community in Alaska that had a 200 percent increase in the number of cavities when they discontinued their water fluorination," he said. "I don't think that will be typical but I do think you'll see a 25 percent to 50 percent increase within a year."

For most families, Clemens expects it won't make a big difference, but he said for those who can't afford regular dental care or aren't able to make up for the loss in fluoride through regular brushing and mouthwash dental health can deteriorate quickly.

"It's usually the low-income communities hit hardest," he said.

Clemens said that's why he plans to ask the board to reconsider.

Webb said turning the fluoride back on isn't out of the question and the village is open to another discussion.

"We're not taking out the equipment we use to inject the fluoride so if it gets revisited later and we decide that it wasn't the best way to go we can always go back to doing it," he said.

As for other communities, Public Health Madison-Dane County releases a report every year explaining their stance on fluoride in the water supply. As of 2019, the agency still recommends it.

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Michelle Alfini

Reporter, WKOW

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