To the editor:
In connection with the Nov. 12 Associated Press report in the Lawrence Journal-World concerning the Nov. 6 vote in Wichita against adding fluoride to the municipal water supply, the successful cavity prevention program in the low-income Stanley Elementary School in Wichita is worth noting. Sponsored by Philip Allen, MD, and his late wife, June Allen, RN, the classroom demonstration was conducted with parental consent by now-retired teacher Dorothy Gray using xylitol mints and chewing gum.
Approved as a dietary supplement by the Food and Drug Administration in 1963, xylitol is a naturally occurring five-carbon, decay-preventing sweetener found in birch trees that was adopted at one time for this purpose by American Indians. Depending on how much is used, xylitol is reported to reduce tooth decay by as much as 73 percent, according to a randomized, double-blind controlled study. Because it destroys decay-causing bacteria and promotes increased saliva flow to aid remineralization of tooth enamel, some dentists recommend its use to their patients.
In the Wichita demonstration, the children’s parents and dentists, as well as the children, were very pleased with the dental results and even found that earache problems ceased. Compared with the poor showing and harm caused by water fluoridation, an investment in xylitol for safe prevention of tooth decay in targeted areas could prove to be quite cost-effective.