Water fluoridation is economic plus for Colorado communities
Thanks to the Sentinel for its Thursday editorial calling attention to the important public health issue of water fluoridation.
More than 65 years of research has shown community water fluoridation to be safe and effective in reducing cavities and maintaining good dental health. The per-person cost of a lifetime of community water fluoridation is less than that of one dental filling. We recommend each community fluoridate its water supply to levels adequate to protect the oral health of its citizens.
Despite dental disease being 100 percent preventable, Colorado kids miss about 7.8 million school hours every year because of mouth pain. In 2007, 57 percent of Colorado third graders had at least one cavity. More than four of every 10 working Coloradans and nearly seven of every 10 Colorado seniors do not have dental benefits. A low-cost, high-return option like community water fluoridation can help save many Coloradans the pain and expense of dental treatments.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention named community water fluoridation one of the top 10 public health interventions of the past century.
Most major health organizations support community water fluoridation, including the American Dental Association, the American Water Works Association and the World Health Organization.
To make this recommendation, these organizations and the state health department rely on the scientific rigor of hundreds of studies completed during the past 65 years.
These studies, both old and new, have examined every aspect of fluoridation and continue to reach the same conclusion: Community water fluoridation reduces cavities, does no harm and is one of the most cost-effective public health investments a community can make.
Fluoridating a community’s water supply costs about $1 to $2 per person per year. A 2003 Colorado study shows it saves more than $60 per person annually in dental costs. Most local business owners would call that an excellent return on investment. Community water fluoridation saves Coloradans $149 million each year in dental treatments.
CDC studies over the years show no association between water fluoridation and adverse health effects, including increased risk of cancer, Down syndrome, heart disease, osteoporosis, bone fracture, immune disorders, low intelligence, renal disorders, Alzheimer’s disease or allergies. None of the harmful effects fluoridation opponents have pointed to during the past 65 years have proved true.
People who drink fluoridated water have 25 percent to 40 percent fewer cavities. And despite the widespread availability of fluoride tooth paste, mouthwash and other consumer products, fluoride from water provides at least 25 percent of each person’s reduction in cavities — meaning fewer dental visits, healthier teeth and money saved.
Improving the oral health of all Coloradans is one of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s top 10 winnable battles — selected for our state’s ability to make significant progress during the coming four years. One goal is to make sure at least 75 percent of Coloradans are served by community water systems with optimally fluoridated water by 2016.
The state does not force communities to add fluoride to their water. Some communities already have enough fluoride in their water from natural sources. For those that do not, the state health department provides training for local water engineers, support for local water systems and fluoridation equipment grants for those communities without the necessary resources.
A healthy mouth is more than just a nice smile. Good oral health helps us eat, drink and speak better. It prevents painful and costly dental treatments and helps us avoid chronic disease. We believe community water fluoridation plays an important role in keeping our teeth and our communities healthier and happier.
Katya Mauritson, DMD, is the Oral Health Director, for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in Denver.