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Des Moines Water Works will continue fluoridating


Dr. Blair Smith

Dr. Steven M. Levy

Des Moines, Iowa—After soliciting public comments on fluoridation for eight weeks, the Des Moines Water Works Board accepted a recommendation from its technical staff Dec. 17 to continue fluoridating its water supply.

The DMWW serves about 500,000 customers in central Iowa. It has been fluoridating for more than 50 years.

After reviewing more than 650 comments both for and against fluoridation, DMWW technical staff recommended continuing fluoridation, finding it “appropriate for public health” and “consistent with the balance of scientific and medical opinions currently available.” Public comments and more information is posted on the DMWW website.

DMWW staff presented the recommendation Dec. 3 to the DMWW Planning Committee. In addition to the hundreds of comments submitted to the company, about 30 people attended the meeting to offer comments in person.

Members of the local dental society began organizing an informational campaign in mid-October, soon after the water supplier began inviting comments, said Dr. Blair Smith, Des Moines District Dental Society president.

“We had relatively little time to prepare. We became involved in mid-October, and the board was set to decide in the first part of December. In reality, we had about six weeks to get ready.”

The dental society’s strategy, said Dr. Smith, was to encourage involvement of local dentists in the process, including pediatric dentists, the Iowa Department of Public Health, the Iowa Dental Association, Iowans for Oral Health and the University of Iowa College of Dentistry.

“I was very pleased that the DMWW board and professional staff relied on the scientific evidence about the public health benefits and safety of community water fluoridation in their decision to continue community water fluoridation,” said Dr. Steven M. Levy, professor and associate director of the graduate program in the Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry at the University of Iowa College of Dentistry and a member of the ADA National Fluoridation Advisory Committee. “The involvement of Des Moines area dentists, UI College of Dentistry faculty and students and the state dental director was critical to the outcome of the DMWW decision.”

“In our case, good science prevailed,” said Dr. Smith. “Thanks to the actions and advocacy of the people important to this issue, we had a very successful campaign."

“My advice to others who could be facing future similar challenges to long-standing community water fluoridation programs is to get organized before an issue comes up in your town,” Dr. Smith added. “Have a plan in place and, in particular, have someone ready to handle the press. The American Dental Association was a very helpful resource, with a plethora of written materials that helped guide us through this process. The ADA’s ‘Fluoridation Facts’ booklet gave us an excellent summary of all of the facts and studies that support water fluoridation.”

“I think we should have a commitment to keep looking at things like this, which are highly controversial,” said Bill Stowe, DMWW general manager, in a Dec. 3 article in the Des Moines Register. “Good science says things need to be looked at and reviewed.”

The ADA's Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference—a multifaceted campaign to reduce the numbers of adults and children with untreated dental disease—supports community water fluoridation as an effective and cost-efficient method to bring disease prevention to communities nationwide. One of the goals of campaign is to ensure that 80 percent of Americans on public water systems have access to optimally fluoridated drinking water by 2020. See more on the campaign online.

The ADA's Action for Dental Health: Dentists Making a Difference—a multifaceted campaign to reduce the numbers of adults and children with untreated dental disease—supports community water fluoridation as an effective and cost-efficient method to bring disease prevention to communities nationwide. One of the goals of the campaign is to ensure that 80 percent of Americans on public water systems have access to optimally fluoridated drinking water by 2020. See more on the campaign online.