Healthy children in Colorado

Community water fluoridation is used throughout Colorado and the United States to improve health and protect our communities. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about fluoridation.

Water fluoridation was named one of the top 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. In children, it strengthens growing teeth and in adults, it protects tooth enamel from plaque and bacterial acids—leading to less decay. This means lower health costs and the opportunity for everyone to live a healthier life. For more information, see this page on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention websites.

Water fluoridation is widely supported by public health experts and physicians. Supporters include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Surgeon General, the American Dental Association and the World Health Organization to name a few. In Colorado, a broad coalition of doctors, community leaders, dentists and teachers support water fluoridation. Local advocates include the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Dental Association, Colorado Latino Leadership, Advocacy and Research Organization, Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, Delta Dental of Colorado, and Padres & Jóvenes Unidos among others.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that comes from the earth and is released by rocks and absorbed by water. Our oceans and nearly all rivers, lakes, and streams have naturally occurring fluoride already in them. You can find more information on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s webpage about fluoride.

In some cases, our local mountains give us the right amount of minerals to support good health. Most water districts in Colorado monitor the amount of fluoride that is naturally present in the water and, if necessary, adjust it to reach the right level to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent decay. The optimal level is 0.7 parts per million, a guideline set by the U.S. Public Health Service based on decades of research.

Water fluoridation is crucial for our Colorado communities because it’s an effective way to strengthen tooth enamel and protect our teeth from tooth decay. Tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease in the U.S. Water fluoridation ensures that everyone, no matter their economic background or age, has a chance at good oral health for life.

Here in Colorado, local water providers monitor the amount of fluoride that is naturally present in the water, and then adjust it, if necessary, to reach the optimal level for the prevention of tooth decay (0.7 parts per million). The US Public Health Service sets this guideline that is widely used throughout the country. Call your local water operator to learn more.

Young children are especially vulnerable to tooth decay because the protective enamel on baby teeth is thin. Also, cavities can spread from baby teeth to adult teeth as they come in. Each year, Colorado children miss about 7.8 million school hours every year because of mouth pain. And schoolchildren living in fluoridated communities on average have 2.5 fewer cavities compared with kids not living in fluoridated communities.

Tooth decay affects 80 percent of Americans by the time they reach adulthood. All of us—even those of us that brush regularly with fluoride toothpaste—benefit from fluoridation. Water fluoridation strengthens tooth enamel, guards against bacteria, and prevents tooth decay in people young and old. Multiple studies show that even with widespread use of fluoride toothpaste, water fluoridation decreases tooth decay. Water fluoridation especially benefits individuals who lack access to basic health and dental care. The American Academy of Pediatric’s website has more information on toothpaste and water fluoridation.

Fluoridating our water is a highly cost-effective way to ensure communities benefit from better health. For every dollar a community spends on water fluoridation, it saves an average person $38 in dental treatment. Lower overall healthcare costs benefit individuals, local businesses, and governments. The American Dental Association has more information on this on their website.

The Internet is a big place, full of a lot of misleading health information on many topics, including fluoridation. For years, naysayers have shared bogus information and bad science about water fluoridation—despite decades of research showing fluoridation works and is perfectly safe. It’s important to set the record straight, give people accurate information, and underscore the fact that fluoridation is a public health standard that is endorsed and embraced by nearly every major health institution in Colorado and the United States—from pediatricians and dentists to child health advocates.

If your community benefits from water fluoridation, tap water is the best way to go. Bottled water, while a convenient option at times, doesn’t always contain beneficial levels of fluoride. Reusable water bottles are a great way to stay hydrated while also enjoying the health benefits of tap water and protecting the environment from plastic waste.