Health: Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Great Way to Save on Dental Bills |

Health: Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Great Way to Save on Dental Bills

Phil Mohler, M.D.

Forever plagued by a name that evokes the whine of a high speed drill and “Open wider. How was your vacation?” I, Fill Molar, want to remind you about the high medical value of fluoridation of public water supplies. Tooth decay is still the most common chronic disease. It is an irreversible condition, often starting early in life. Dental decay dearly costs us individually and as a nation.

Why talk fluoridation? In Colorado it’s about missed opportunities to save health care dollars. Only 70 percent of Colorado’s communities enjoy fluoridated water. We rank a mediocre 28th in the nation. It’s also about increasing numbers of “anti-fluoridaters” who want communities to stop adding fluoride to their community water supplies.

With any health intervention, whether it’s screening mammography, immunizing kids or adding Vitamin D to your milk, or fluoride to your water, three criteria should be met — efficacy, safety and cost-effectiveness.

First, does it work?

Yes it works and it works well! Studies differ in their results, but almost all indicate that 20-40 percent of dental caries are prevented when fluoride is added to a public water supply. This is a critical issue for children when teeth are forming, but adults garner benefits, as well. Furthermore, those families that have the fewest opportunities to visit a dentist are privy to a first rate health intervention when their water supply is fluoridated.

Is fluoridation safe?

A recent study, Health Effects of Water Fluoridation: a Review of Scientific Evidence, has refuted any dangers of water fluoridation when used appropriately. Opponents of fluoridation raise concerns of risks of cancers and heart, muscle and metabolic disorders associated with fluoridation. The scientific evidence does not support any of these claims.

Finally, is fluoridation cost effective?

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that under typical conditions, the annual per-person cost savings in fluoridated communities ranged from $16 in very small communities (<5,000) to nearly $19 for larger communities (>20,000). The analysis takes into account the costs of installing and maintaining necessary, equipment and operating water plants, the expected effectiveness of fluoridation, estimates of expected cavities in non-fluoridated communities, treatment of cavities, and time lost visiting the dentist for treatment. At an average cost of 50 cents a year per person, that’s a return of $32 to $38 for every dollar spent on fluoridation.

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