You've likely heard dental health professionals talk about fluoride and seen it listed as an ingredient on just about every oral care product, but did you know you can get fluoride from sources other than your toothpaste and dentist? The U.S. government considers this element such a crucial ingredient to a healthy clean smile that it included fluoride in public water supplies 70 years ago. Since 1945, U.S. residents have enjoyed the oral benefits of this mineral right from their sinks.
According to the American Dental Association, fluoride strengthens enamel, the tooth's hard protective surface, to prevent cavities. When acid enters the mouth or sugar and plaque combine to create the destructive substance, the enamel erodes, which leads to tooth decay. By enhancing the enamel's defense, fluoride effectively impedes this process and helps repair already-damaged smiles.
You apply this natural mineral right to your teeth when you use toothpaste or mouthwash or visit the dentist. However, you can also find fluoride in certain foods and beverages, which provides that same direct-application advantage as well as a systemic one. By consuming fluoride, your body absorbs the mineral and distributes it to teeth that haven't emerged yet, which is especially beneficial for kids.
Statistics on water fluoridation
For 70 years, Americans have benefited from drinking fluoridated water. The ADA highlighted statistics that demonstrate the effectiveness of this health achievement:
- Within five years of the first community water fluoridation program in Grand Rapids, Michigan, researchers saw a 50-63 percent reduction in childhood cavities in that area.
- After 14 years of water fluoridation in Evanston, Illinois, 14-year-old residents were 57 percent less likely to have oral issues than individuals of the same age group living in a community that had a lower concentration of fluoride in its public water supply.
- Overall, the U.S. has seen a reduction in dental decay since the onset of community water fluoridation.
"Overall, community water fluoridation reduced dental decay in the U.S."
In honor of this anniversary, U.S. Congressman Michael K. Simpson (R-ID) introduced Resolution 146 on Sept. 11, 2015, to acknowledge the vital role water fluoridation plays in the health of Americans today. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which included community water fluoridation in its list of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, ranks this oral care advantage among other notable modern medical advancements such as vaccination, motor-vehicle safety and family planning.
Determining if your community uses fluoridated water
The CDC noted that as of 2012, 210 million Americans had access to public supplies of fluoridated water that had a high enough concentration of the substance to prevent tooth decay. While that equates to about 3 in 4 U.S. citizens, that still leaves 25 percent of residents without this oral care benefit.
Use this interactive map from the CDC to determine if you live in an area with community water fluoridation, or contact your water provider for more information. Those who do not get this mineral in their public water supplies may benefit from fluoride supplements and consuming foods and drinks with higher fluoride content such as seafood, gelatin and tea. Schedule a dentist appointment with a dental discount card to speak with a professional about how you can increase your fluoride intake.