411 on Water Fluoridation
Flouride is a mineral that is mined from phosphate rock and exists naturally in virtually all water supplies. It is one of several examples of everyday products fortified to improve our health. Other examples include; iodine which is added to salt, folic acid added to breads and cereals, and vitamin D which is added to milk (1). There are overwhelming amounts of research that have shown how fluoride is one of the most effective tools we have to prevent dental caries and strengthen children’s teeth. It’s been proven that “children who drink fluoridated water as their teeth are developing will have stronger teeth that resists decay better over their lifetime. A 2010 study confirmed that the fluoridated water consumed as a young child makes the loss of teeth due to decay less likely 40-50 yrs later” (2).
It is commonly misconceived that flouride is a “medicine”. It is not a medicine, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition “it is a nutrient that enhances the stability of teeth and bones, and is a partial preventative of decay”(3). Americans have been drinking fluoridated water for over 65 years and there is overwhelming evidence proving that it is both safe and effective (4). Tooth decay is the greatest health problem in children in the United States, five times more than asthma (2). It can affect a child’s ability to eat, sleep, speak, learn and grow.
Most fluoride is consumed through fluoridated tap water and foods. The fluoride that is added to the public water supply is absorbed and metabolized by the human body exactly as naturally occurring fluoride is (5). Flouride used to fluoridate water is extracted from phosphate rock, and ironically, phosphoric acid, which is an ingredient in Coke and Pepsi is also extracted from this same phosphate rock. In my research I found that Community Water Fluoridation has been part of the public health practice in the U.S. for almost 70 years. It was designed to help protect our teeth which are the key to our overall health. They asked local water operators to adjust the fluoride levels in municipal water supplies to attain the level recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service. As long as proper levels are being maintained there are no adverse effects that have been associated with consuming fluoridated water (5). It’s commonly thought that fluoride can cause or worsen medical conditions of the thyroid, kidney, heart or other gland/ organs but there is no current evidence supporting this (5). The American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute have also confirmed that there is no association between water fluoridation and risk of cancer (5).
I feel water fluoridation is a smart healthy strategy. This is because even today when most people have access to toothbrushes and fluoridated toothpaste, research still proves that drinking fluoridated water reduces the risk of decay. It also saves tax payers and families money because it’s less expensive to fluoridate water than it is to pay for a filling. It improves oral health for all income levels and racial/ ethnic backgrounds. In fact, a study that was done in 2002 stated that “water fluoridation is the most effective and practical method for reducing the gap in decay rates between low-income and upper-income Americans” (6). (You can check out the link from the Journal of Public Dentistry for more details: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jphd.2002.62.issue-4/issuetoc) So don’t be afraid of fluoride in the water supply, be educated on your town’s water supply and make sure that controlled amounts are being added which is on average .07 parts per million depending on where you live in the U.S. If you have well water be sure to have it tested to make sure you do not have too much fluoride in your water supply. If you do not have any fluoride in your water be sure to let your dental provider know as they can give other suggestions to help keep you and your families’ teeth strong.
In closing, the evidence supports the fact that communities with fluoridated water have less tooth decay. It’s an easy, inexpensive preventive strategy that benefits everyone especially at a time when so many Americans do not have dental insurance.