Fluoridation of Water
Original draft by Jamie Morain
Dental caries is the disease process that causes tooth decay, which is the deterioration of tooth enamel that occurs when acids produced by bacteria in dental plaque slowly erode teeth.[ WebMD, Medical Library , Health Guide A-Z . (accessed July 31, 2004)]. During the early twentieth century dental caries was rampant in the United States as well as most other developed countries and the loss of permanent teeth to decay was considered inevitable.[ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Vol. 48), October 22, 1999]. Although the occurrence of dental caries has been substantially reduced in the last fifty years, the disease still affects an alarming number of people.
Dental caries can be safely and effectively controlled by adding specific concentrations of fluoride to public water systems in areas where the level of naturally occurring fluoride is unusually low. Every dollar spent on preventing tooth decay returns a savings of $7 to $42 that would be spent on treating damage caused by tooth decay.[ Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, Maternal Health , Oral Health, “Brushing Up on Children ’s Oral Health in Louisiana–A Policy Brief ] (accessed July 31, 2003). Other means of administering fluoride, such as tablets and ointments, are not nearly as effective because they are not guaranteed to be regularly employed by all members of society. (CDC). Fluoridation of water ensures that all individuals in a particular community, regardless of their socioeconomic status, receive protection from the deleterious condition known as dental caries.
The process of water fluoridation involves supplementing the natural level of fluoride in water to a concentration sufficient to protect against tooth decay– a level which ranges from 0.7 parts per million to 1.2 parts per million.[ American Dental Association, ADA Positions & Statements , American Dental Association Statement on Water Fluoridation Efficacy and Safety ], (last updated June 5, 2002).
There is no evidence that closely monitored fluoridation systems cause any significant adverse effects. The United States Surgeon General has declared community water fluoridation to be one of the ten greatest health measures of the 20th century. Scientific evidence has shown that the occurrence of dental caries will increase sharply within a year if a fluoridation program is discontinued (CDC). In addition, public opinion polls show that most persons in the United States support community water fluoridation (CDC).
However, despite their proven effectiveness and public support, the growth rate of new community fluoridation programs has been much lower in recent years due in part to opposition from select groups making unsubstantiated allegations that fluoridation is dangerous. These groups oppose the expansion of the nation’s existing fluoridation infrastructure, and seek to create further opposition in support of their cause by creating national hysteria based on unfounded allegations. “Since 1950, opponents of water fluoridation have claimed it increased the risk for cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, osteoporosis and bone fracture, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, low intelligence, Alzheimer disease, allergic reactions, and other health conditions.” (CDC). Repeated scientific monitoring of community fluoridation programs has found there is no correlation between fluoridation and any of these conditions.