Utah County public health officials believe local residents woefully underestimate the value of fluoride in public drinking water.

A resolution passed by the Utah County Board of Health this week calls for elected officials in the county to put the matter on the ballot - or persuade residents to supplement their children's diet daily for 15 years.Opponents to mass fluoridation recently made a sweep through Utah County governmental meetings warning the public about allowing the government to determine what is and isn't needed in the water.

Dr. Joseph Miner, county health director, says fluoride has proven itself over the past 50 years, with studies showing 40 to 60 percent less tooth decay among children with optimum fluoride in their drinking water.

Nationally, more than 50 percent of the public drinks water with adequate fluoride, said Miner. In Utah, only 3 percent have public drinking water with enough fluoride in it to control tooth decay.

Nevada is the only state with a smaller percentage of its residents drinking adequately fluoridated water.

"This resolution was prompted by the board chairman, Gayle Judd, who felt a statement was needed from us to help counter the negative information going out about fluoridation," Miner said Friday.

He said the county and state Republican conventions passed resolutions against allowing fluoridation in public drinking water to go to the people for a vote. He feels those kinds of actions are based on misinformation and a lack of education.

He said it's popular to use the term "mass medication" when opponents are trying to scare the public.

"Actually, people don't realize it's (fluoride) already there. There are even some areas where they have too much natural fluoridation and they have to take some out."

Miner says some fluoride occurs naturally in all public drinking water systems but only a handful of Utah communities have enough to fight tooth decay without supplementation.

Five Utah County communities have levels that would require only half supplementation: Alpine Cove subdivision in Alpine, Eagle Mountain, Elberta, Spanish Fork and Pleasant Grove, including the Manila annexation.

No Utah County community has at least 0.7 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride, which is the optimum level to prevent tooth decay, Miner said.

Full supplementation consists of 0.25 mg of fluoride daily for children from 6 months of age to 2 years. From age 3 to 5, children need 0.5 mg of fluoride and from age 6 to 16, they need 1.0 mg of fluoride.

"If you have .5 parts per million concentration in the water, that means in every liter you drink you would get .5 mg of fluoride," Miner said.

Sodium fluoride tablets are inexpensive and will serve the same purpose as putting the supplement in the public water, but parents would have to remember and remind their children to take them for years.

Rinses and dentist applications are also available.

"We know from current surveys that 30 percent of parents don't follow through with four to five visits to a clinic to complete early childhood immunizations," said Miner. "How much more difficult is it for parents to maintain their children's daily fluoride supplements for over 15 years?"