Dr. John Fisher on Community Water Fluoridation

My recent presentation before the Scituate Board of Health was truly an enlightening experience.  I was second on the agenda and was privy to another request before the Board prior to me. It was our government in action. I was privileged to view a group of individuals, who are dedicated to serving their local community. They were careful in their deliberations, sought to be fully informed and diligent in fulfilling the law.  Although I know there are many dedicated individuals in my own community doing the same thing, I had never fully appreciated the time and effort it takes to serve on these Boards. Their role requires them to listen to all residents who wish to provide information and they did so with the greatest respect.

As a dentist in Salem, Massachusetts and as a dental student in Philadelphia, I was able to observe firsthand the value of community water fluoridation. When I first came to Massachusetts, Marblehead, Swampscott and Lynn did not have fluoridated water supplies. I was overwhelmed by some of the decay I saw in patients coming from these communities and did not immediately realize this was because Salem was fluoridated and these communities were not.  A few years ago, I volunteered on the MDS Mobile Access to Care Van in communities without fluoride and I was suddenly back thirty years to when I began practice. This experience on the MDS Van was what opened my eyes to the fact that fluoride is still the most cost effective means to provide prevention across a wide socioeconomic stratum. We are depriving the poor if we do not support community water fluoridation; this inspired me to become more knowledgeable about fluoride and enabled me to be competent to offer information in Scituate.

One of the big topics in dentistry right now is access to care, but you don’t need the level of access in fluoridated communities that you need in non-fluoridated areas. Prevention of the disease still trumps the treatment of the disease. And that is where all of us in the health care community come in. Not just dentists or hygienists, but everyone, and it underscores our need to reach out to everyone in health care and in the community with the message best phrased by the Center for Disease Control,  “community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to effectively prevent tooth decay for 65 years”. The CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of the ten great public health achievements of the twentieth century. We all need to be aware of the science, we need to know the members of our Boards of Health, and we need to be ready to present scientific fact in a way that logically supports the value of fluoride for our communities. We need to remember the rampage of decay in those communities without fluoride.

I was invited to present information and as such I was able to provide information. If you live in the community, you do not have to be invited. It is important to know this and it is important to be ready to do your part for your community.


Dr. John Fisher is a past president of the Massachusetts Dental Society serving from 2010-2011. Dr. Fisher is a general dentist and maintains his own a private practice in Salem, MA. Active in his community, Dr. Fisher is a member of the Salem Rotary, and volunteers with the Salem YMCA, the North Shore Medical Center Cancer Walk, Catholic Charities of the North Shore and Children’s Friend and Family Services. He is a fellow of both the American College of Dentists and International College of Dentists.

Dr. Fisher received his bachelor’s degree from the Catholic University of America and his dental degree from Temple University School of Dentistry.

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