Since the mid 1960’s, fluoridation of drinking water has been a routine practice in much of the US. Drinking water is purified to the point that it is safe for drinking in water treatment plants, after which chlorine is added to kill germs and slightly less than 1 part per million of fluoride is added to slow the rate of tooth decay in children. According to the American Dental Association, water fluoridation reaches just over 200 million US citizens. Water fluoridation was coined one of the United States’ crowning achievements in 1999, because it provided a huge and undeniable reduction is what was before an epidemic of cavities and tooth decay.
When compared to other health measures carried out in the United States, water fluoridation has proven to be one of the safest and most cost efficient public services ever provided. It has not been without controversy, however. While the dental health benefits of fluoride are proven, there are some people who still filter their water to rid it of chemicals such as fluoride. Their concerns range from civil liberties issues to the fear of the potential harmful effects of fluoride that have been documented when it is given at much, much higher dosages.
While many states already have laws regarding fluoridation in place, the vast majority of arguments over fluoridation are made on the local level. Every city is unique in the sense that there are many water distribution and filtration plants in local areas and, of course, the fluoridation of water varies significantly from state to state. For instance, 100% of the District of Columbia’s water supply contains fluoride. But there is some variation, for instance Kentucky and Illinois both have fluoridation rates that are well above 99 percent but Maryland and Virginia have a fluoridation rate of 93.7% and 93.8% respectively.
Overall, the dramatic reduction of tooth decay levels in the United States have been largely attributed to fluoride levels in public drinking water, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is a great achievement and a huge gift to our children. Be that as it may, fluoridation still creates great debate and has been and will probably always be a hot topic in the media. There is no sign of that changing any time soon. As a dentist in practice for over 35 years, I have been witness to an almost miraculous reduction in cavities in children so personally I am a big fan of water fluoridation at the minuscule one part per million level.
That’s all for today, until next time,
Dr. Mark W. Langberg, DDS, MAGD
26206 West 12 Mile Road, Suite 303
Southfield, MI 48034