Water Fluoridation for Healthy Communities believes that access to accurate information is key to making meaningful improvements that enhance the quality of life. As a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, our mission is to raise awareness of the effects of fluoride in the water to help the people of Colorado enjoy free and equitable oral health.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in rivers, lakes, oceans and wells. In some cases, our mountains already give us the right amount of fluoride to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay. Local water providers monitor the amount of fluoride already present in drinking water, and then adjust it, if necessary, to maintain the right level that prevents tooth decay. Water providers follow the national guideline set by the U.S. Public Health Service that is widely used throughout the United States to support good health. The guideline is 0.7 parts per million.
Dental experts agree that fluoride is potent when it comes to protecting teeth from decay.
When we eat sugary food, the bacteria present in our mouth produce acid. Decay happens when the acid eats away the minerals from the surface of the tooth (enamel), making it weaker and susceptible to cavities. Fluoride helps in rebuilding and strengthening the enamel.
In the early 20th century, scientists found a link between increased levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in potable water and lower instances of dental decay. As it turns out, fluoride does not only stop cavities from forming; it keeps the teeth strong and solid and can even help repair damage on the tooth’s surface.
As consistent and frequent contact with low levels of fluoride proves effective in preventing tooth decay, communities are turning to water fluoridation to improve the oral health of residents.
Given that the market is teeming with products that contain fluoride, such as toothpaste, mouth rinses, and dietary supplements, why is fluoride added to water?
According to a 2007 study that measures the effectiveness of fluoride in preventing dental caries in adults, water fluoridation can prevent tooth decay by 25%. The study also identifies water fluoridation as the most cost-effective way to deliver fluoride to members of a community – one of the many pros of fluoride in water that many Coloradans can attest to.
The U.S. Public Health Service has set a guideline for the level of fluoride in water that supports good health. Water providers throughout the country adjust the amount of fluoride in water in alignment with this guidance to achieve optimal tooth decay prevention.
Almost 90 years ago, an observant dentist from Colorado Springs, Frederick McKay, found that the mineral-rich mountain water protected the city’s residents from tooth decay. McKay based this conclusion on significant research over a span of years that showed the dental health benefits of the city’s fluoride-rich water. After more research, this discovery led to the broader use of water fluoridation as a way to promote the health of people across our country. This Colorado discovery now benefits more than 70% of Americans. Healthcare professionals hail it as one of the top public health successes of all time, right up there with seatbelts, car seats for children, reductions in tobacco use, and immunizations.
Some of the strongest supporters of community water fluoridation are those who regularly witness its benefits to our state’s children: pediatricians, dentists, teachers, and school nurses. Water fluoridation strengthens tooth enamel and prevents painful and chronic tooth decay, which can affect kids’ physical, academic, and social development. Tooth decay hits kids from low-income families especially hard, since they are less likely to have access to regular dental care.
Everyone—even those with good access to dentists and fluoride treatments—benefits from water fluoridation. Healthcare providers emphasize that water fluoridation, combined with daily brushing and regular dental visits, is a key to maintaining not just healthy teeth, but good overall health.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the U.S. Surgeon General, the Colorado Dental Association and the American Dental Association all agree that community water fluoridation is essential to good public health. But some activists are trying to mislead Coloradans about fluoridation by misrepresenting research and spreading misinformation. While many Coloradans already recognize fluoridation’s benefits, we must ensure that conspiracy theories and bogus science don’t put the health of our children and communities—especially our most vulnerable residents – at risk.
If we stop community water fluoridation, we will see the return of health problems that have been absent from Colorado for the past 70 years—like chronic toothaches that make it hard for kids to learn, senior citizens who need costly dentures because they’ve lost all of their teeth, and employees who miss work due to dental emergencies. Each of these impacts comes with social and economic costs we would all bear—needlessly. Water fluoridation works and decades of research proves this to be true.