OLIVER SPRINGS (WATE) – A heated debate erupted Thursday night in Oliver Springs as the town's water board considered removing fluoride from the town's water supply.
After a lengthy discussion, the board decided to give Oliver Springs citizens the final say. The board voted to place the question of fluoridation on the August 2014 ballot.
Studies from the Center for Disease Control have shown fluoride in the water supply can prevent teeth from decaying, as well as prevent other health problems.
Dr. Jim Horton has been practicing dentistry in the area for 31 years. He says he has seen proof that fluoride works.
"If you take a rural area in Kentucky, Virginia, or Tennessee, the rural areas that lack fluoride have a much higher incidence of tooth decay," Horton said. "Fluoride has been touted as one of the great advances of the 20th century. It's right up there with the polio vaccine."
Some citizens fear that what is good for one's teeth may harm the rest of the body.
"It has a warning saying the chemical is known to cause cancer, birth defects, and other reproductive harm," said Tim Crisp, a resident and water department employee as he addressed the Oliver Springs Water Board.
The CDC, however, disagrees.
"Scientists have found a lack of evidence to show an association between water fluoridation and a negative impact on people, plants, or animals," according to the CDC.
Oliver Springs Mayor Chris Hepler said he has concerns.
"There was a time the doctor would recommend you the best brand of cigarettes to smoke. Times have changed," Hepler said.
Several local dentists, including Dr. Horton, made a case for keeping fluoride in the water supply. The discussion got heated at times.
"It is ridiculous and stupid. It's a stupid, misguided decision," Dr. Horton told the water board.
He said the decision affects the long-term success of the community.
"Certainly good teeth, good appearance, and good breath are important. Young people can't get a job if they don't have a good appearance," Dr. Horton explained.
Others, like Mayor Hepler, feel health risks could be a bad trade for good teeth.
"I just don't think the benefits outweigh the risk," Hepler said.