Savings and Benefits of Fluoridation
Research shows that water fluoridation offers perhaps the greatest return-on-investment of any public health strategy. The reduction in just the costs of filling and extracting diseased teeth—not counting reductions in lost work time and dental pain—more than makes up for the cost of fluoridation. In recent decades, the evidence showing savings has grown:
For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves $43 in dental treatment costs.
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.
A 2010 study in New York State found that Medicaid enrollees in less fluoridated counties needed 33 percent more extractions and other corrective procedures than those in counties where optimal fluoridation was much more common. As a result, the treatment costs per Medicaid recipient were $23.65 higher for those living in less fluoridated counties.
By protecting the enamel of teeth, fluoridation makes it less likely that decay will develop into more serious dental problems that drive people to hospital emergency rooms (ERs)—where treatment costs are high. A 2010 survey of hospitals in Washington State found that dental disorders were the leading reason why uninsured patients visited ERs.
A 1999 study compared Louisiana parishes (counties) that were fluoridated with those that were not. The study found that low-income children in communities without fluoridated water were three times more likely than those in communities with fluoridated water to receive dental treatment in a hospital operating room.
Water fluoridation provides dental benefits to people of all ages and income groups without requiring them to spend extra money or change their daily routine.
Water fluoridation makes good business sense
Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in childhood, roughly five times more common than asthma. Unlike a cold, decay doesn’t go away with time or bed rest; it lingers and can lead to more serious conditions. The consequences of poor dental health not only punish children and families, but also hurt the business climate in several ways.
Reducing worker productivity. Working adults are affected in three ways:
Missing school. Missed school days mean missed opportunities to learn. One study found that California children missed 874,000 schools days in 2007 due to toothaches or other dental problems. The goal of creating an educated workforce is undermined when health issues interfere with schooling.
Driving up health care costs. Unmet dental needs burden our health care system. In a one-year study of seven Minnesota hospitals, patients made over 10,000 trips to the emergency room because of dental health issues, costing more than $4.7 million. A survey of hospitals in Washington State found that dental problems were the leading reason why uninsured patients visited Emergency Rooms.
Water fluoridation prevents decay and saves money
Here’s the good news. Community water fluoridation prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults throughout the lifespan. Fluoride occurs naturally in nearly all water supplies. “Fluoridation” is simply adjusting fluoride to the level found to prevent tooth decay. In tough fiscal times, fluoridation is a strategy that produces clear savings to communities. Many public health policies can be expensive, but fluoridation costs only about $1 per person, per year in a medium-sized community, and it actually saves communities money by preventing decay and related treatment costs:
Today, studies prove water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing tooth decay, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.
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. The co-author of a 2010 study noted, “Studies have confirmed the most effective source of fluoride to be water fluoridation.”
Fluoridation: A smart investment worth making and preserving
Fluoridation is a sound policy supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dental Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and many other respected health and medical experts. Yet, despite this broad consensus of support, more than 74 million people whose homes are connected to public water systems do not receive optimally fluoridated water.
Even worse, small groups of activists are encouraging cities and towns to stop fluoridating their community water systems. Some of these fluoridation opponents are claiming this could save money, even though substantial evidence shows the opposite is true—children, families and taxpayers would pay a long-term price for ending fluoridation.
In a time of tight budgets and shrinking resources, state and local governments must invest in cost-effective strategies that support the development of a healthy, well-educated workforce. By supporting fluoridation, you can help your community significantly reduce both its dental problems and the long-term economic costs that these problems have on businesses and taxpayers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proclaimed community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Community water fluoridation is one of the most trusted public health measures—supported by dentists and physicians living in your community, as well as organizations like the American Dental Association, American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Click here for statements from many of the trusted organizations and leaders supporting fluoridation.
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