The prevention of tooth decay through community water fluoridation is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of 10 Great Achievements in Public Health of the 20th Century. Here is the CDC’s List of Ten Great Public Health Achievements in the United States from 1900 to 2000:
- Motor-vehicle safety
- Safer workplaces
- Control of infectious diseases
- Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke
- Fluoridation of drinking water
- Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard
- Safer and healthier foods
- Healthier mothers and babies
- Family planning
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), community water fluoridation is the single most effective public health action to prevent tooth decay. Fluoride is a mineral found in plants, animals and soils that is necessary to help strengthen bones and make teeth more resistant to decay. Community water fluoridation is the adjustment of naturally occurring fluoride levels in drinking water to an optimal fluoride level recommended by the United States Public Health Service for the prevention of tooth decay.
Fluoride reduces tooth decay, prevents loss of teeth and reduces dental infection and pain. Even in teeth that are beginning to decay, fluoride use strengthens enamel and can stop further decay. Topical use of fluoride includes fluoride toothpaste, fluoride rinses, and professionally applied fluoride foams and gels. Topical fluoride is absorbed into the surface of the teeth, making the enamel stronger and more resistant to decay. Systemic fluoride is ingested into the body, either by drinking fluoridated water or through fluoride supplements. Teeth and bones do not store fluoride permanently, but need regular doses to stay strong and healthy. At the Millersville and Greenbelt dental offices of McCarl Dental Group we apply fluoride after each teeth cleaning by a Dental Hygienist. When appropriate, our Dentists and Hygienists prescribe extra strength fluoride toothpaste or mouth rinse.
Fluoride helps prevent dental cavities and decay at all ages. In young developing teeth, systemic fluoride enhances overall tooth development and provides long-lasting protection against tooth decay. Parents and caregivers should monitor the use fluoride-containing dental products by children younger than 6 years. Young children should be supervised while brushing and taught to spit toothpaste out, rather than swallowing the toothpaste. Place a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste on a young child’s toothbrush. The use of fluoride mouth rinses is not recommended for children younger than 6 years of age because they may swallow the rinse. Ingestion of higher-than-recommended levels of fluoride by children has been associated with an increased risk of very mild or mild permanent discoloration in developing, un-erupted teeth.
Mature teeth also benefit from systemic use of fluoride. Fluoride is especially important for senior adults as their gums start to recede. Adults experiencing gum line recession are at increased risk for root decay because the root surface becomes exposed to decay-causing bacteria in the mouth. Topical fluoride applied in the dental office and systemic fluoride from fluoridated drinking water strengthens the structure of the root surfaces, making them more resistant to decay.
After more than 60 years of rigorous scientific study of water fluoridation by numerous organizations, the overwhelming weight of scientific evidence indicates that community water fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure for preventing tooth decay. For more information about fluoride and oral health, visit “www.ada.org”.