Post written by Emily Day, DDS, Director of Dental, Health Partnership Clinic
2020 marks the 75th anniversary of community water fluoridation. In honor of this the slogan for the 2020 National Children’s Dental Health Month is “Fluoride in water prevents cavities! Get it from the tap!”
More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective and prevents tooth decay by at least 25 percent in both children and adults. The American Dental Association (ADA) supports water fluoridation as the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay even in the of era of widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Below are commonly asked questions answered by the ADA.
Why would communities want to fluoridate the water?
- Communities fluoridate their water supply because it is a cost-effective public health method that helps prevent cavities. The average cost per year for U.S. communities to fluoridate the water ranges from 50 cents per person for large communities to $3 dollars per person for small communities.
- Cavities are caused by a disease called “caries,” which is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever in five-to 17-year-olds. The pain from untreated cavities can cause people to lose sleep, have trouble eating, speaking and paying attention at school or work.
- A report from the U.S. Surgeon General in 2000 estimated that 51 million school hours are lost per year because of dental-related illness. Without water fluoridation, that number would likely be much higher.
- So, by simply drinking fluoridated water, you are doing something good for your oral health.
Is Fluoride, as provided by community water fluoridation, a toxic substance?
- Fluoride in water at the recommended level is not toxic according to the best available scientific evidence.Toxicity is related to dose. While large doses of fluoride could be toxic, it is important to recognize the difference between the effect of a massive dose of an extremely high level of fluoride versus the fluoride level currently recommended for public water systems. Like many common substances essential to life and good health – salt, iron, vitamins A and D, chlorine, oxygen and even water itself – fluoride can be toxic in massive quantities. Fluoride at the much lower recommended concentrations (0.7 mg/L) used in community water fluoridation is not harmful or toxic.
Does water from the refrigerator dispenser still have the beneficial fluoride in it?
- Refrigerator filters and other filters (like BRITA) don’t filter out fluoride. Only reverse osmosis filtration removes fluoride from city tap water.