Fluoridation Fails San Francisco, California
For example, 32 percent of kindergartners living in the 94110 ZIP code of the Mission experienced tooth decay in the 2013-14 school year compared to 53 percent in ZIP code 94108, which includes the southern portion of Chinatown, and 45 percent in ZIP code 94133 in the northern part of Chinatown.
However, 436 predominantly Latino kindergartners had tooth decay in the Mission ZIP code, while 60 were affected in the 94108 ZIP code in southern Chinatown and 96 in the 94133 ZIP code in northern Chinatown, according to data from the San Francisco Unified School District’s Kindergarten Oral Health Screening Program, analyzed by the Department of Public Health.
Health officials suspect cultural issues play into the high rates of tooth decay among Latinos and other minorities.
“Hispanic Americans traditionally don’t drink water here because in their countries, the tap water is not safe,” said Margaret Fisher, an oral health consultant with the Department of Public Health. “Bottled water doesn’t have fluoride, which is a mineral that protects the teeth, and is in San Francisco tap water.”
In addition, Latino families often gift sweet foods to children and “it’s not interpreted as giving them dental decay,” Fisher said. Meanwhile, Chinatown has a large immigrant population that holds on to their home country’s belief that baby teeth aren’t important and will be replaced by permanent teeth anyway.
A major problem is the limited number of dentists that take DentiCal. At the community meeting at the Mission Neighborhood Centers Head Start/Early Head Start, Irene Hilton, a dentist at the department’s Silver Avenue Family Health Center, mentioned that Western Dental — one of The City’s largest dental providers — recently announced they will no longer accept DentiCal.
The collaborative, led by the SF Department of Public Health and UC San Francisco, includes dental health providers, school officials and advocates with a strategic plan toward making The City cavity-free. As part of its effort to increase access, the collaborative is pushing a couple of initiatives.