Some fluoridated communities may be threatened with attempts to reverse water fluoridation (e.g. rollback). It can happen without warning. Sometimes it is a well-organized and vocal opposition (though small in number), and sometimes it is simply one or two people raising a loud and effective ruckus. While opponents to water fluoridation can be intimidating and successful in shaping the conversation – and sometimes even shutting it down – you can succeed in holding them back and preserving water fluoridation.
When there is an attempt to roll back water fluoridation, time is short and you need to build a sense of urgency.
It’s important to remember that the overwhelming majority of people is on your side and supportive of community water fluoridation.
Three Tips to Success
Steps to plan and take action
- Quickly identify key community allies (“Community Champions”). Dentists, hygienists, school nurses, teachers, and parents – they make wonderful, passionate, and respected Community Champions of water fluoridation!
- Learn the facts. You don’t have to be an expert – don’t worry! But you should know the basic facts about community water fluoridation and have fact sheets (Fluoride 101, Myths and Facts, Fluoride and the Environment) ready to hand out to opinion leaders and decision-makers.
- Know the history in your community. Find out when it was first implemented and who makes the decision about whether or not to fluoridate. Check out the Talking to Policymakers section.
- Most importantly, develop strong, clear messages that:
- Focus on your community and what it values. This could be family, children, equity – a quality that resonates with everyone in your community. These values can help you frame the water fluoridation discussion.
- Highlight the enormous benefits that community water fluoridation has brought to your community and how widespread it is throughout the country and world. See the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s community water fluoridation page.
- Note the sound science behind water fluoridation. Check out the Campaign for Dental Health and Fluoride Science. If you want more information on how to develop your message, go to the How to Talk about Community Water Fluoridation section.
- Know how to respond to the opposition. It helps to know common arguments used by the opposition and how to respond. Remember to stick to your key messages. Build support in your community. Reach out to friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Build a sense of urgency. Create a pledge card for them to sign in support of water fluoridation, which can demonstrate to key decision-makers strong community support, and provide a fast way to educate the public about the importance of community water fluoridation and how it is being threatened.
- Meet with decision-makers. Whether it’s your local board of health, town/city council, or board of select, it’s important to know who makes the ultimate decision about water fluoridation and to get in front of them! Your goal is to get them to keep your community fluoridated. Check out more details in the Talking to Policymakers section.
If the effort goes to referendum or ballot initiative
If the opposition has succeeded in getting enough signatures to place the termination of water fluoridation on the ballot, it’s time to ramp up your activities!
- Get your Community Champions to write letters to the editor in support of community water fluoridation. Download sample letters to the editor.
- Meet with your local newspaper editorial board so that they can write an editorial in support of community water fluoridation. Mainstream media is on the side of science and will support the continuation of community water fluoridation. Get tips for talking to the media.
- Find funding to support your efforts! The urgency of a rollback attempt may be just what you need to get immediate and short-term funding to pay for an organizer, lawn signs and other needs. Look for support from your state American Dental Association chapter, health or community foundation, or even a local business that is invested in the health of your community.
- Create posters and lawn signs – anything that shows strong community support for keeping water fluoridation in your community (See a sample poster and a sign.)
- Include your Community Champions’ names, signatures, or quotes in any materials created, if possible, to show the influential community leaders behind your effort.