A shortage of sodium fluoride has forced the City of Dover to take the unprecedented move of temporarily stopping adding it to the public water supply.

The city has fluoridated its water since 1990 when a referendum approved its use, according to Dover's Community Services Director John Storer. But that came to a halt this week.

"We got notice last year thorough the Northeast Merrimack Valley Chemical Consortium probably at the end of last summer that there was a pending shortage of sodium fluoride," Storer said. "Our last order came in March or April. We order in bulk and we have run out."

The city posted a notice on the city website Tuesday about the shortage.

Several Seacoast region communities purchase the chemicals they need through the consortium in order to get better prices.

It comes in a powder form and is a key ingredient to the fluoridation process. Storer said it's not clear when it will become available again.

"In talking directly to our suppliers, they're just saying they can't get any right now because it's all produced foreign and they don't have any domestic suppliers of it," Storer said.

Dover Water Works on Lowell Avenue
Dover Water Works on Lowell Avenue (UNH Stormwater Center)
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Minimal Impact on Water Safety

Storer said the lack of fluoride in the water has no impact on the safety of the water.

"If we were ever going to run out of any chemical, that would be the one that wouldn't have any long term direct portability impact. It's just an added benefit if you believe in the benefits with the oral health side of things," Storer said. He added that Community Services is neutral on the benefits and shortcomings of the additive.

The lack of fluoride in Dover's water is of concern to Michael P. Auerbach, executive director of the New Hampshire Dental Society.

"Flouride in the water is one of many important steps that people need to take to insure good oral health," Auerbach told Seacoast Current. "People should continue to see their dentist and do all the things they need to do to enhance their oral health," which includes brushing and flossing.

Fluoride treatments will still be available from dentists, according to Auerbach.

Auerbach said there could be impacts to oral health if the shortage lasts for an extended time, although he could not put a timeframe on it.

"As long as people are able to see their dentist for fluoride treatments, people should be able to at least safeguard against any major public health issues,"  Auerbach said.

Flouride helps minimize tooth decay in those who do not see a dentist regularly. Auerbach said the Dental Society website can help locate a dentist.

Auerbach said he was not aware of any New Hampshire water systems that had also been affected by a flouride shortage

North Attleboro, Massachusetts suspended the additive for several weeks in November and still hasn't re-added to the water supply as of April, according to the North Attleboro Sun.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNH

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