Advocate for fluoridation
Easley's Web site serves as national resource for information

When the American Dental Association needed an expert to comment on the bottled water boom and its potential ill effects on children's teeth, it called on UB's Michael Easley.

Easley Easley is a public health dentist, an associate professor in the Department of Oral Health Services and Informatics, a specialist in the fluoridation of drinking water and the ADA's designated spokesman on the issue.

He is also director of the Web-based National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research, which was made accessible to the public two months ago. The site contains approximately 1,000 links to Internet sites that provide access to everything you ever wanted to know about fluoridation, as well as information you'd probably rather avoid -- hundreds of antifluoridation sites leveling charges at fluoridation proponents ranging from mass medicating to conspiring with communists.

Some of these sites refer to Easley by name and not in friendly terms. In addition to advocating the public-health benefits of fluoridation, he is a high-profile debunker of the specious claims of groups who oppose it.

"To the antifluoridation folks." Easley said, "I'm Public Enemy Number 1."

From a public-health perspective, fluoridation is clearly a success story, and Easley is happy to tell it.

"Fluoridation prevents up to 70 percent of cavities in communities where it is available," he stated. "It makes no sense to have people experience a disease when there is a very easy way to prevent it.

"Fluoridation also saves millions of health-care dollars. Studies have shown that fluoridating a municipal water supply costs an average of 50 cents per person per year. If a person lives to be 70, that's $35. That means that a lifetime of fluoride is less expensive that one filling in one tooth."

Easley was tapped as national fluoride spokesman when experts at both the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control lost their fluoride specialists through retirement and budget cuts, and the responsibility for advocating and educating the public on the issue fell to the ADA. Easley was well-qualified for the role.

Before coming to UB in November 1996, he was director of environmental health and community safety for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He has served as chief of the division of dental health for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and for the Ohio Department of Health, and served as commissioner of health and environment for Middletown, Ohio.

Easley served in the U.S. Navy Dental Corps, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and for a short period was inprivate practice. He received his dental degree from Ohio State University College of Dentistry and his master"s degree in public health from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Easley also spent two years at Procter & Gamble as associate director of professional relations and research coordinator for the company"s worldwide clinical investigations.

His university affiliations have included faculty appointments at Temple University, University of Michigan, University of Detroit, Ohio State University, Wright State University, Case Western Reserve University and The Johns Hopkins University, and he has been a consultant on community dentistry to a number of others.

The National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research http://www.sdm.buffalo.edu/ncfpr serves as the only comprehensive central repository for information on all aspects of fluoridation. Easley said he created it as a resource for scientists, educators, public officials, organizations, the media and the public to provide access to reliable, timely and scientifically based information on the issue.

The center's Board of Science, Technology and Policy Advisors is composed of national and international experts in the fields of public health, community dentistry and dental research.

The Web site is particularly useful to communities preparing to fluoridate their water. It contains case studies from already fluoridated communities, transcripts of lawsuits filed against them (none of which have succeeded, Easley said) and scientific studies on fluoride's safety. With his background and experience in public health, Easley often is called in to help such communities get started.

He will be in West Palm Beach in February and in Seattle and Spokane in March for that purpose. Easley helped the State of California write its 1995 bill mandating state-wide fluoridation. (Only 10 states have mandated fluoridation; New York is not among them.)

He continues work with the California Dental Association to develop public-health messages explaining the benefits of fluoridation and to combat false or misleading information disseminated by antifluoridation groups.

These groups are adept at tailoring their message to the particular sensibilities of each community, Easley said. "Sometimes it's the anti-big-government argument. Sometimes they will concentrate on the concept of forced medication. Then there are the contrived arguments that claim fluoride is responsible for every disease known to man; that it is a chemical pollutant, a toxic byproduct or a carcinogen. There is no scientific basis for any of these claims."

In fact, there is good early evidence that fluoride may help prevent osteoporosis, Easley said, in addition to protecting teeth from decay, which has been proved many times over. Easley has begun collecting information from women participating in UB's Women's Health Initiative for a study on the relationship between fluoride exposure and osteoporosis.

On the issue of the bottled-water boom, which is being blamed for the first rise in childhood cavities in two decades, Easley advises parents to consult their physician or dentist on the issue and if it's a problem in their home, consider a fluoride prescription.

Or they can log into the National Center for Fluoridation Policy and Research. Among its 1,000 links they"ll find manufacturers of fluoridated bottled water.

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