Base wins honor for optimal fluoride levels

  • Published
  • By John Parker
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently honored Tinker’s water treatment plant for excellence in maintaining proper fluoridation levels that boost public health.

The base is one of only 30 public water systems in Oklahoma to earn the honor, and among 1,510 nationwide.

The Water Fluoridation Quality Award recognizes community water systems that have maintained a consistent fluoridated water level at least nine months this year.

“Water fluoridation is one of the best investments that communities can make in maintaining the oral health of their citizens,” said Casey Hannan, acting director of the CDC Division of Oral Health. “It is equally as effective in preventing cavities in children and adults. Fluoridation is also highly cost effective. Studies continue to show that for every dollar invested by communities in water fluoridation, $38 is saved in dental treatment costs.”

The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced the award Nov. 1. Tinker’s water and wastewater managers report fluoride levels to the department, which partners with the CDC.

“OSDH supports community water fluoridation and recognizes the practice as beneficial to all who drink and use the water,” said Dr. Jana Winfree, the department’s director of dental health service. “Preventive dental care programs, such as community water fluoridation, make a real difference improving the health status of Oklahomans. We acknowledge the contribution of Tinker Air Force Base to public health.”

Plant Supervisor Jason Avery said the award was great news for more than a dozen employees of the Industrial Wastewater and Water Treatment Plant.

“It’s an honor and we really appreciate it,” Mr. Avery said. “For everyone out here, it’s good for morale.”

Fluoride is added to the water supply before it flows to the base’s residential areas, where it is the most beneficial for tenants. Twenty-two wells on base provide the water that is treated before consumption. Fluoride levels are checked twice a day, Mr. Avery said.

Key water-quality personnel include Water Plant Manager Doug Mitchell and personnel from the 72nd Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight, led by Lt. Col. Steve Boglarski, flight commander, and Doug Woods, drinking water program manager. A team of biotechnicians including Senior Airman Heaven Yang and Airman 1st Class Kristina Song regularly monitor the fluoridation levels and other water quality factors at locations throughout the base water distribution system.

Lt. Col. Boglarski said many people often think bottled water is better for them because they’re paying for it.

“In reality, bottled water has no fluoride in it, so it does nothing to prevent tooth decay,” the lieutenant colonel said. “The tap water is optimized to provide the best levels of fluoride to the consumer, which provides a substantial benefit to your health, and especially to children, in preventing dental problems.”

Community water fluoridation has been recognized by the CDC as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Currently, nearly 75 percent of citizens (211 million) have access to optimally fluoridated tap water.

The CDC recommends water fluoridation as one of the most practical and safe measures communities can take to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health.