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MyView: Community water fluoridation: A preventive strategy

June 05, 2017

By Mark Bronson, D.D.S.

As dental professionals, we are often asked about many issues concerning oral health.

We're asked about the best way to brush teeth; the best foods to maintain optimal integrity of dental enamel; and when it's time to bring a child to the dental office for the first visit.

Mark Bronson, D.D.S.
When was the last time someone asked you about the importance of community water fluoridation?

Community water fluoridation is the most cost-effective preventive strategy to reduce dental decay, and are we promoting it as we should?

More than 70 years of scientific research1 has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride2 in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25 percent in both children and adults. Simply by drinking water, Americans can benefit from fluoride's cavity protection3 whether they are at home, work or school. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention4 named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Are we engaging in effective strategies to promote community water fluoridation in our communities?

Are there patients who could be advocates along with us to preserve this valuable preventive tool in our communities? Do we have a yearly discussion with our city council, county board of commissioners and other elected officials about the importance of water fluoridation? Do we mention the value of community water fluoridation in our patient newsletters and in educational editorials for our local newspapers? Do we promote our community's annual water quality report that shows what a great job the unsung heroes in our water treatment facilities do to ensure clean and safe water comes from the tap? Have you taken a tour of your local water plant to thank the staff for their efforts in improving the health of the community by fluoridating the water? How about the local pediatricians partnering with us in visiting a local radio show or TV program to discuss the topic?

At any time, there could be a challenge to community water fluoridation in our communities. The unfortunate part of that statement is that we never know when our city, county or state could be the target of those who want to remove fluoridation from a water system, leaving citizens in a vulnerable state.

Wouldn't it make sense to prepare for that possibility, just in case?

Frequently, the arguments raised by the opposition in a fluoridation challenge may seem far-fetched. There are some who believe that water fluoridation is to blame for everything from A to Z. Some decision-makers and members of the public can be swayed by repeated messaging — especially where social media becomes the main source of information.
It's been repeatedly shown that dentists are trusted sources of information for patients and the public.  So if we believe in community water fluoridation, why not educate, advocate and elucidate about its value to our communities?

Dr. Bronson is the chair of the ADA Council on Government Affairs.

  1. McGinley JS, Stoufflet NM. Fluoridation Facts. Chicago, IL: American Dental Association; 2005.
  2. ADA applauds USPHS final recommendation on optimal fluoride level in drinking water [news release]. Chicago, IL: American Dental Association.
  3. Fluoride: The Superhero of Cavity Fighting [video]. Chicago, IL: American Dental Association; April 27, 2015.
  4. Division of Oral Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Community Water Fluoridation. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated October 4, 2016.