Know the Facts about Fluoridated Drinking Water
Fluoride occurs naturally in water.
The term “fluoridated water” simply means that the fluoride level in a water system has been adjusted to a certain level—or optimal level—to prevent tooth decay. Most water systems in the U.S. are fluoride-deficient without this adjustment. Fluoride is not a medication. Fluoride in drinking water the beneficial effect of preventing tooth decay. U.S. court decisions have rejected the argument that fluoride is a “medication” that should not be allowed in water. The American Journal of Public Health summarized one of these rulings, noting that “fluoride is not a medication, but rather a nutrient found naturally in some areas but deficient in others.” Adding fluoride to water is like any other process treatment to improve the quality of drinking water. It is based on public officials making a decision that is informed by sound research—not driven by fear. Those who prefer not to drink from a public water system can do so. Maintaining an optimal amount of fluoride in water is based on the principle that decisions about public health should be based on what is healthy for the entire community.
There is a clear difference between the dental health of communities that fluoridate their drinking water and those that do not.
Community water fluoridation prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults throughout the lifespan. A study of two similar, adjacent communities in Arkansas showed that residents without access to fluoridated water had twice as many cavities as those with access to fluoridated water. A 2005 study found that Colorado communities with fluoridated water had annual savings in oral and other health care costs of $148.9 million—an average of about $61 per person. That same study also found that Colorado would save an additional $46.6 million if fluoridated water was implemented in another 50-plus water systems.
Water fluoridation provides dental benefits to people of all age and income groups without requiring them to spend extra money or change their daily routine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that fluoride is most effective when provided in “the right amount in the right place at the right time,” and there’s no better way to ensure that than fluoridated water. A 2003 study of fluoridation in Colorado concluded that “even in the current situation of widespread use of fluoride toothpaste,” water fluoridation “remains effective and cost saving” at preventing cavities. Studies conducted in communities that fluoridated water in the years after fluoride toothpastes were widely used have shown a lower rate of tooth decay than communities without fluoridated water. For low-income individuals who are at higher risk of dental problems, fluoride rinses are a costly expense, which is why these products are not the “easy” answer that opponents of fluoridation claim they are. Water fluoridation is the least expensive and most effective solution.
Fluoridated water is safe for babies.
Water fluoridated at the optimal level is safe for babies and young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support water fluoridation. Fluoridated water can be used to reconstitute infant formula. The issue for parents of infants to consider is enamel fluorosis—a minor, cosmetic condition that produces faint white markings on permanent teeth as they are forming (from birth through age 8). The risk of dental fluorosis is low. Even when it occurs, fluorosis is barely noticeable—if noticed at all. Mothers who rely on reconstituted infant formula should consult with their pediatricians about options other than using fluoridated water. Some pediatricians may recommend alternatives to fluoridated water, while others may tell parents to continue using fluoridated water. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes the vast majority of fluorosis cases are mild, and fluorosis can also occur in communities without fluoridated water. Fluoridated water has stood the test of time, serving U.S. communities since 1945. Today, over 210 million people (or nearly 75 percent) of the U.S. population on public water supplies have access to fluoridated water. Tens of millions, many of whom are now parents themselves, were given formula reconstituted with fluoridated water when they were infants.
About Colorado Fluoride Facts
Colorado Fluoride Facts is a public-service project dedicated to helping Coloradans understand the facts and benefits of community water fluoridation.
© Colorado Fluoride Facts 2015