The people of Portland will vote with their toothbrushes this May.
Last August the City Council voted to add fluoride to the city’s drinking water, as Portland is one of the largest cities in the country that has not yet done so. Anti-fluoride activists were up in arms, bristling at the thought. Signatures were gathered and a referendum will now be set before the people. Voting was originally scheduled for 2014, but the vote has been moved to the upcoming odd-year election when participation is low due to the absence of any national concerns on the ballot. Your individual vote couldn’t be more important.
I divide the disapproving into two groups, both frowning. Some are opposed to fluoride, the actual physical element, and others are opposed to digressing individual rights and might not care much about scientific debate as much as misplaced executive order (or city council order anyway). I identify more with the government oppression crowd, but see value in brushing my own teeth. I happen to be going to the dentist tomorrow morning.
Proponents of mass fluoridation, such as Everyone Deserves Healthy Teeth, and many dentists believe that things worth doing can only be done by the government. If we can’t be trusted to brush our own teeth, this typical progressive mindset will soon lead to a ban on personal ownership of toothbrushes themselves.
Once fluoridation is introduced, the matter of regulating the precise amount becomes a central concern. Most who think about it would agree that too much fluoride is bad beans, so the question which cannot be answered is, “How much is too much?” The pro-fluoridation camp insists that the amounts in question and in use are miniscule, so as to be insignificant. This is probably true, but I’d rather trust my own judgement on what is best for my own body, teeth included.
Rather than force all water drinkers in the city to ingest a potentially suspect chemical, why not reach out directly to the people who really want the benefits of fluoride or need a little help? If the city is going to spend money on something (inevitably spent on everyone equally or on certain people specifically), why not help lower income folks and others for whom the benefit is intended, by providing additional preventative dental services and actual dental care? There’s some of that already going on, so why not do enough to matter? It will surely save us all money and just the teeth that need it.
I’ll leave it to others to argue about the possible negative effects of fluoride, both on the natural environment and to our individual bodies. The unknowns are small uncertainties and thus open to debate, but the matter is hardly proven science one way or another. Even if many dentists recommend mass fluoridation of the city water supply, some experts say it’s not a good idea.
While the science is perplexing to me, removing personal responsibility only increases our tax burden as we all begin to brush each other’s teeth. The tooth brushes will grow bigger and bigger. We might even start using one big brush. The Portland Toothbrush. We’ll fight over what color it is and which medicine cabinet to keep it in. There will be a bristle for each of us, and we’ll all spit into the same sink.
It’s not miracle water. You still have to brush your own teeth.