Letter: The benefits of fluoridated water

Children’s Dental Health Month is the opportune time to celebrate the strides we have made in preventing cavities through community water fluoridation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has praised water fluoridation as one of “10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”

Fluoride exists naturally in nearly all water supplies. Water is “fluoridated” when a public water system adjusts the fluoride to a level that is found to prevent tooth decay. Research shows the long-term benefits of fluoridation. A 2010 study found that the fluoridated water consumed as a young child makes the loss of teeth (due to decay) much less likely even 40 or 50 years later — when that child is a middle-aged adult.

The research supporting water fluoridation is solid — and recent. Within the past few years, several new studies have continued to demonstrate fluoridation’s positive impact. Here’s one example. A 2010 study in Nevada examined teenagers’ dental health and found that living in a community without fluoridated water was one of the top three factors associated with high rates of decay and other dental problems.

The leading health and medical organizations support water fluoridation. This list includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. We can trust their knowledge and expertise.

Fluoridation saves money. Research shows that every $1 invested in water fluoridation produces savings of $38. This money is saved by families and taxpayers because people avoid paying the cost for more fillings and other dental treatments.

Water fluoridation helps to improve oral health for people of all income levels and racial/ethnic backgrounds. In fact, a 2002 study called water fluoridation “the most effective and practical method” for reducing the gap in decay rates between low-income and upper-income Americans.

Anti-fluoride activists have no evidence proving that fluoride is harmful at the level used for fluoridating water. They will make all kinds of claims, but the science doesn’t back them up.

Fluoridation is a smart health strategy — even today, when nearly everyone brushes with fluoride toothpaste. Research proves that drinking fluoridated water reduces the risk of decay. At a time when more than 100 million Americans lack dental insurance, fluoridation offers an easy, inexpensive preventive strategy that everyone benefits from simply by turning on their tap.

Deborah Foote

Executive Director, Oral Health Colorado

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