Vitale Bill To Reduce Prevalence Of Dental Disease Approved By Senate Health Panel

Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, hears testimony during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on S-1, legislation that would establish marriage equality in New Jersey.  The bill was released from the Committee with a vote of 8-4, along party lines.  The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

‘New Jersey Public Water Supply Fluoridation Act’ Would Provide All New Jerseyans Access to Fluoridated Water

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale that would reduce the prevalence of tooth decay by requiring fluoride be added to public water supplies was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“By fluoridating our public water supplies we can directly improve the dental health of all New Jerseyans in the least expensive and most effective way possible,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chairman of the Senate Health Committee. “Dental decay is an infectious disease and a major health problem that can have lasting effects on our residents and their overall health. Working to end dental disease – the country’s most prevalent childhood disease – is especially important for New Jersey’s kids when fluoride is essential as their teeth are formed and grow.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluoride stops and even reverses the tooth decay process. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria-produced acids that remove minerals from the surface of teeth. Fluoridation helps to remineralize tooth surfaces and prevent cavities. The CDC states that by simply drinking fluoridated water and eating foods that have been prepared with fluoridated water, a person can reduce their tooth decay by about 25 percent over his or her lifetime.

The “New Jersey Public Water Supply Fluoridation Act,” S-959, would require all community water systems to be fluoridated within a year of the bill’s effective date.

Additionally, the bill would require the State Commissioner of Environmental Protection in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services to adopt rules and regulations to determine the means by which the fluoride is controlled, the methods of testing the fluoride content, and the records to be kept in relation to fluoridation.

Communities where the water supply already naturally contains sufficient levels of fluoride would not be required to add additional fluoride to their supply.

“With more than half of New Jersey’s poverty-stricken children not receiving any dental care, this legislation would provide some form of basic tooth protection to many New Jersey children who do not have access to dentists or regular dental check-ups,” said Senator Vitale. “This is particularly important since most of New Jersey’s largest cities including Camden, Newark, Jersey City and Paterson do not have fluoridated water and many poorer residents of the state are receiving little to no access to this vital cavity-preventer. All children, whether their parents can afford to take them to see a dentist ever six-months or not, should have equal access to fluoride and its lifelong health benefits.”

More than 80 percent of New Jersey residents do not receive fluoridated water, ranking New Jersey 49th of the 50 states in its percentage of population that benefits from fluoride through their public drinking supply. Senator Vitale noted that this is especially alarming considering that New Jersey is often in the forefront on health and medical care programs.

The Senator added that by including fluoride to drinking water will have a huge cost-savings benefit, while costing the public very little. According to the New Jersey Dental Association, the state would see an estimated savings of $108 million per year in dental treatments, reducing overall health care costs for both insured and uninsured New Jerseyans. Operating costs for adding fluoride into a water system is estimated between 50 cents to three dollars per person per year, in comparison to the estimated cost to fill a cavity-stricken tooth, which is just over $101.

“Fluoridation of water is considered one of the ten greatest public health achievements of the 20th century, yet most New Jersey residents do not benefit from this crucial health treatment option,” said Senator Vitale. “We must course correct and provide all New Jerseyans, no matter their income or access to dental care, with this proven methods of combating tooth decay and dental disease. Fluoridating New Jersey’s drinking water makes fiscal sense and will have serious long-term health benefits for New Jersey’s residents.”

Eleven states mandate fluoridation of public water supplies.

The bill was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee with a vote of 7-1-2. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations for further review.