Fluoridated Water and 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 as 1 of 10 great public health achievements for the 20th century.
Fluoride is natural to our environment. You find it in soils and fresh and ocean water. Community water fluoridation adjusts the natural levels of fluoride in areas where the amount is not ideal for helping prevent tooth decay.
Water fluoridation improves oral health, which is central to our overall health.
Oral health benefits
Fluoride prevents dental disease.
It is an efficient and equitable 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.1
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.2
Fluoride is safe and effective.
An overwhelming amount of scientific evidence indicates that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe.
The CDC, 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.
See more about the safety of fluoride from the Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Protection Program and the CDC Statement on the Evidence Supporting the Safety and Effectiveness of Community Water Fluoridation.
Fluoridating water saves money
On average, every dollar spent on fluoridation by a community saves $20 in avoided dental treatment costs.3 Over a person's lifetime, the cost of fluoridation is typically less than the cost of one dental filling.
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 keeping children from swallowing fluoride toothpaste. Parents and caregivers should only put a tiny 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. Young children need help with brushing. Stay with your child while brushing and teach them to spit, not swallow. If you have questions, talk to your child’s dentist or medical doctor.
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. Find answers to frequently asked questions at:
- Minnesota Department of Health Drinking Water Protection Program
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Bottled Water
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Bottled Water Everywhere: Keeping it Safe
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.
- Go to the CDC website for additional information on Other Fluoride Products.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Community Water Fluoridation: Infant Formula, Water Fluoridation Basics
- American Dental Association: Fluoridation FAQs.
- 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.
1 Fast Facts. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. 2014.
2 Over 70 Years of Community Water Fluoridation. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).