ADA program helps voters reject anti-fluoridation measure

Rutland City, Vermont opts to keep city water fluoridation program

The Vermont State Dental Society mailed a postcard to homes in Rutland City, Vermont using funds from the ADA's SPA program. Designed by staff member Jenny Pitz.

Voters in Rutland City, Vermont, rejected a charter change that would have stopped the city’s water fluoridation program. 

The ballot measure appeared on the city’s Town Meeting Day ballot March 5 and failed with about 60% of the vote. There were 2,031 votes against the proposal and 1,334 in favor.

According to the Vermont State Dental Society, which has received grants from the ADA for many years to enhance its advocacy efforts, this election result can be partially attributed to the ADA’s State Public Affairs program. The SPA Program was founded by the ADA in 2006 to help state societies manage specific public affairs issues and opportunities. Since that time, it has evolved into a national program which has helped state dental societies bolster their communications and public affairs capabilities.

The Vermont State Dental Society had already expended its Spring 2024 grant funds to provide testimony and interviews, create a letter campaign and send dentists a one-page flier of fluoride facts to hang in their offices before the March election. But the society eventually realized it needed to do more to achieve a successful election result.

Patrick Gallivan, executive director of the dental society, said although the dental society desired to send postcards to homes in Rutland City and place newspaper advertisements, these endeavors cost more than the State Public Affairs funds VSDS had already been granted for the year.

“I went to [the ADA] and said, ‘Here’s where we’re at. We feel this is a good use of SPA resources,’” Mr. Gallivan said, adding that he subsequently filled out a proposal. “I quickly got a response saying they were supporting the request, and they funded it right away.”

Thanks to an additional $5,000 from the ADA’s SPA program, just before election day VSDS ran an advertisement in the Rutland Herald and sent a postcard mailer to every home in the city. Mr. Gallivan partly attributes Rutland City voters’ decision to keep fluoride in the water to support from the American Fluoridation Society and the ADA.

“I think it was a combination of efforts that made it happen. The society was really involved in strategizing all of the steps involved, and SPA helped us do that,” Mr. Gallivan said.

Rutland City’s water fluoridation program has been in effect since 1983, as fluoride has been proven to prevent tooth decay by rebuilding and strengthening the tooth’s enamel. But this year is not the first time the issue of fluoridation has come before voters; the town previously voted against stopping water fluoridation in 2016.

“I’m amazed the more I learn about the importance of fluoride in our water that there are people that are so against it,” Mr. Gallivan said. “I just feel very fortunate that the voters decided to keep doing what they’ve been doing since 1983 and keep fluoridating the water and keep Rutland smiling.”

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