Get It From The Tap!

Author: Kimberly N. Powell, DDS, MS, FAGD

This year’s National Children’s Dental Health Month campaign slogan is “Fluoride in water prevents cavities! Get it from the tap!” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named community water fluoridation (along with vaccinations and infectious disease control) one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), throughout more than 70 years of research and practical experience, scientific evidence has consistently indicated that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe. Fluoride is a mineral present at varied concentrations in all water sources including rainwater and the oceans, and community water fluoridation is the controlled adjustment of fluoride to optimal levels to prevent tooth decay (ADA). Water that has been fortified with fluoride is similar to fortifying salt with iodine, milk with vitamin D and orange juice with vitamin C- none of which are medications (ADA).

How does fluoride help? Tooth decay begins when the outer layer of a tooth loses some of its minerals due to acid produced by bacteria found in dental plaque breaking down the sugars that we eat (ADA). Fluoride protects teeth by helping to prevent the loss of these minerals and by restoring them with a fluoride-containing mineral that is more resistant to acid attacks (ADA). It is worthy to note that it is more than the dental community that supports this program as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization also support community water fluoridation (ADA). Considering it is a public service initiative, water fluoridation benefits every socioeconomic group, from the underserved to the 1%, and provides equality in this aspect among the groups. Drinking fluoridated tap water can help prevent costly dental treatment; the cost of a lifetime of water fluoridation for one person is less than the cost of one filling (ADA). It is necessary to note that all public water is not the same. Some populations live in areas where there is suboptimal to no fluoridation and some where the public water may not be safe to drink. Your local Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can provide information regarding your home and county’s water fluoridation levels and safety. Although fluoride is obtained from sources other than public water, like toothpaste and rinses, fluoride supplements may be prescribed if fluoridation levels are substandard, the child is deemed to be a high caries risk, and is age 6 months to 16 years old. If you have any questions, please contact your SLDG dentist with your concerns. Prevention is our goal!