Prevention and Control Water Fluoridation and Oral Health

Prevention & Control
Water Fluoridation & Oral Health

Fluoride and Public Health

Fluoridating the community water supply is a safe, effective way to ensure the majority of Minnesotans receive protection from tooth decay regardless of income level or access to dental care. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have proclaimed community water fluoridation one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

Water fluoridation improves oral health, which is central to our overall health. Although preventable, tooth decay is a chronic disease that affects all ages, and is the most common childhood chronic disease. The health impacts are far worse for those who have limited access to prevention and treatment services. Left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain and tooth loss.

Among children, untreated decay has been associated with difficulty in eating, sleeping, learning and receiving proper nutrition. Among adults, untreated decay and tooth loss may have negative effects on an individual’s health, self-esteem and employability.

Oral Health Benefits

Community water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and to improve oral health for a lifetime.

  • Similar to fortifying other foods and beverages. Fluoridating water is similar to fortifying salt with iodine, milk with vitamin D, orange juice with calcium, and enriched cereal grain products with folic acid.
  • Prevents dental disease. It is the most efficient way to prevent one of the most common childhood diseases – dental decay. An estimated 51 million school hours in the United States are lost each year due to dental-related illness.
  • Protects all ages against cavities. Studies show that community water fluoridation prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults, even in a time when fluoride is widely available from other sources, like fluoride toothpaste.
  • Safe and effective. For 70 years, the best available scientific evidence has consistently shown that community water fluoridation is safe and effective.
  • Saves money. On average, every dollar spent on fluoridation saves $38 in avoided dental bills. Over a person's lifetime, the cost of fluoridation is typically less than the cost of one dental filling.
  • Recognized by more than 125 organizations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association (AMA), the World Health Organization (WHO), the American Dental Association (ADA), and more than 125 national and international organizations recognize the public health benefits of water fluoridation for preventing dental decay.

(adapted from the American Dental Association's 10 Reasons to Fluoridate Public Water)

What is Community Water Fluoridation?

Fluoride is natural to our environment. You’ll find it in soils and fresh and ocean water. Community Water Fluoridation safely adjusts the natural levels of fluoride in areas where those levels are not ideal for helping prevent tooth decay.

  • Learn more about how the Minnesota Department of Health's Drinking Water Protection Section works on Drinking Water Fluoridation.
  • Check on your county's water fluoridation efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) My Water's Fluoride.

Dental Fluorosis

Too much fluoride swallowed during tooth development can result in a range of visible changes to the enamel surface of the tooth. These changes have been broadly termed dental fluorosis, or enamel fluorosis, and do not affect the function or health of teeth. Most often, these changes appear as faint white lines or streaks on tooth enamel.

Dental fluorosis only happens when children eight years and younger swallow too much fluoride over long periods when teeth are developing under the gums. Prevention starts with stopping children from swallowing fluoride toothpaste. Parents and caregivers should only put a smear of fluoride toothpaste on a child's toothbrush (up to age 3) at each brushing. For children ages 3 to 6, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is recommended. Stay with your child while brushing and teach them to spit, not swallow. If you are thinking about using fluoride toothpaste before your child is 2, consult your child’s dentist or physician.

Dental Fluoride Products

A variety of fluoride products applied directly to your teeth can also improve oral health – toothpaste, mouth rinse, supplements and varnish. Learn how to use them wisely.

Bottled Water and Fluoride

Bottled water is regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Fluoride may be added to bottled water and depending on the source of the water used, fluoride may already exist in the water.