Saturday, November 25News That Matters

Lewiston Water System Treatment Designed To Prevent Teeth Decay; Science Will Study Future Result


September 29, 2017 at 5:00 am |
By R. L. HOLBROOK Tribune Staff Writer

This story originally ran in the July 5, 1947, edition of the Lewiston Tribune.

Scientific research has been called upon again to lend a helping hand in the further improvement of the Lewiston city water supply in a program designed to reduce dental decay among the youngest and future members of the population.

The step was taken this week with the artificial introduction into the city’s water, through latest approved equipment, of fluoride, a chemical compound from fluorine, which has through years of study been found to exert a tremendous influence upon the formation of the teeth of youngsters from birth to about 12 years.

Introduction of the chemical was made after several years of intensive study made by City Engineer William P. Hughes, Winston H. Berkeley, superintendent of the water plant in collaboration with city dentists and the Idaho state board of health.

“Lewiston is the first city west of the Rocky mountains to embark upon use of the fluoride treatment,” Herb C. Clare, Boise, chief engineer to improve the teeth of the younger residents in the next 10 years, said of the Idaho public health department, who has been in the city several days, checking the new equipment at the water plant and conferring with Berkeley, Hughes and Owen Hatley, sanitation officer with the north central Idaho health department.

In 1946, the fluoride treatment was in operation in such cities as Grand Rapids, Mich., Newberg, N.Y., Brantford, Ontario, Canada, Midland, Mich., and Sheboygan, Wis., among others.

“It has been found in research during the last 15 years that where fluorides occur naturally in the drinking water it tended to materially reduce the incidence of dental caries (decay). The purpose in regions where the right amount of the chemical is not present is to introduce this active element in the water processing.

“It is the policy of the Idaho health department to approve this type of treatment in water systems that meet state drinking water standards and which provide adequate laboratory control, such as Lewiston.”

Vaughn Anderson, senior chemist, Idaho health department, has been working with Berkeley in the water plant the last several days checking the laboratory control.

“Fluorides are effective principally in improving the form of the teeth while they are developing from birth to about 12 years,” explained Clare. “Research indicates the element should reduce as much as 50 per cent dental decay during those years.”

Clare said that the Idaho health department is arranging with the district office of the public health service to send Dr. Walter J. Pelton, U. S. public health dental consultant here next fall to make a study of the incidence of caries now. This would be followed by future studies on the means of improving dental health and to check the affect of the fluoride treatment.

Broad Dental Program.

“A public health dental program will soon be initiated and we hope to be able to get Lewiston dentists to take part in that,” said Clare.

“Research has disclosed that one part of fluoride to 1 million parts of water – the proportion used here – is the most desirable concentration. The result will not be visible for 10 to 12 years but a continual study will be made as the program progresses. The Idaho health department will work closely with the Lewiston department in the dental study and laboratory control. I feel that it is a very progressive step.”

Clare said that public health experiments on Japanese children at war relocation centers disclosed as much as 60 per cent reduction in tooth decay when fluoride was used. He pointed out that communities in Texas, where fluorides are naturally found in drinking water, inhabitants aroused the interest of the dental profession and health departments leading to the discovery of the beneficial effects of the chemical in reducing decay.

Speaking of the new municipal swimming pool, Clare said that it “looks good and meets the state health department standards in construction, maintenance and operation. It has modern equipment and everything that goes to make a good pool.”

Anderson said that a few Idaho cities have water supply with natural fluoride content equivalent to that placed in Lewiston water. He named Nampa and St. Anthony as two examples.

Lewiston’s dental achievement

This originally ran in the April 26, 1950, edition of the Lewiston Tribune

Lewiston has made great strides in improving the dental health of the city’s children through fluoridation of the water supply during the last three years. Results of tests started in June 1947, were released Monday by the city engineer’s office, which conducted the work with the aid of the United States public health service, the north central Idaho health unit, Lewiston dentists and the Lewiston Welfare league.

The results announced by Dr. Walter J. Peyton, regional dental consultant, with the USPHS, are definitely encouraging.

The decay rate for children of 7 has been reduced from 1.4 teeth in 1947 to .6 of a tooth in 1950, a reduction of approximately 58 per cent. The decay rate for children of 8 has dropped from 2.6 teeth to 1.7 teeth, a saving of 35 per cent. The decay rate for children of 9 has decreased from 3.7 teeth to 2.8, a saving of 25 per cent.

These figures are graphic evidence of what the addition of fluoride has meant to Lewiston. The expense has been negligible, 16 cents per capita each year during the three-year period.

Now that the tests are out of the experimental stage supplementing the city water supply with correct quantities of fluoride should be made a permanent project.

Lewiston should be proud, not only because of the saving made in decay among its younger citizens, but because it is one of the few cities in the United States to undertake such an experiment. This is one of the 12 cities in the nation and the only one west of the Rocky mountains to add fluoride to its water supply. Lewiston was chosen for the experiment because of its excellent purification plant facilities and trained personnel.

It is in keeping with the progressive tradition of Lewiston that it can be one of the national leaders in this program.

– Thomas W. Campbell

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