Community water fluoridation (CWF) has been recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
But what is CWF and what does it mean?
CWF is the process of adjusting fluoride (already naturally present in the water) to a level of 0.7 parts per million (ppm), which has been shown to be an optimal level in the prevention of dental cavities. The ocean actually has a fluoride level of between 1.2 and 1.5 ppm.
But why did the CDC call this a great health achievement? This is where the science comes to the forefront. There have been thousands of articles in peer-reviewed journals and millions of dollars spent on research showing the clear benefits of fluoride in the prevention of tooth decay. A 2008 study in Nevada found that living in a community without fluoridated water was one of the top three factors associated with higher rates of decay and other dental problems among teens.
Research has also shown that the use of fluoride toothpaste is not enough to prevent tooth decay and that CWF is a critical component in the prevention of dental disease. In fact, a 1998 study of communities in Nebraska and Illinois found that even though nearly all of the children brushed regularly, those in the fluoridated towns had decay rates that were 45 percent lower than the other children. Another study, in 2010 in New York, found that Medicaid recipients in nonfluoridated communities required 33 percent more treatments for tooth decay than those in fluoridated counties. CWF provides another crucial layer of protection.
Fluoridation benefits extend to people of all ages, including adults, who may experience root exposure or dry mouth. In fact, the Florida Department of Elder Affairs has noted: “Because older Americans are now keeping their teeth longer, fluoride will continue to be even more important for preventing tooth decay in this age group.”
Opponents of fluoride ignore the impact of poor dental health as well as the clear benefits of prevention, but would rather circulate misinformation. For example, they point to studies from China, Mongolia and Iran as evidence that fluoride lowers IQ scores. But they fail to mention that many of the fluoride levels in these flawed studies were dramatically higher than the optimal level used in Naples. Water pollution is a huge problem in China and other contaminants could easily have contributed to these lower IQ scores.
Between the 1940s and 1990s, the average IQ scores of Americans improved 15 points even as fluoridation expanded to reach millions of additional people. If there were any truth to the claim that fluoride lowered IQ scores, the opposite would have happened.
You will also hear misinformation about various health problems fluoride can cause. More than a half-dozen expert panels have looked at the scientific evidence and concluded there is no credible evidence linking optimal levels of fluoridation to any negative health effects. Reviews have been conducted by the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services, the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Academy of Sciences, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, the World Health Organization and the National Health Service, United Kingdom, all showing the safety of optimally fluoridated water, even in infants and children.
Most important of all is the fact that those opposed to optimally fluoridated water do not have a single group like the WHO, CDC or American Medical Association which supports a single health claim they make.
On the other hand, the leading anti-fluoridation website posts research from the same man who co-wrote a book falsely claiming that the HIV virus does not cause AIDS. This research is also used by the anti-fluoride voices in Naples. Is this the kind of source we should trust?
What does this mean to our community? If optimal fluoridation of our water is discontinued, tooth decay will increase. One study in Wisconsin showed an increase in decay by 28 percent within three to five years after discontinuing CWF. Toothaches and other oral health problems can create hurdles for students trying to obtain a solid education. In 2012, a study found that teens with dental problems were four times more likely to have lower grade-point averages. The risk of increased pain and infections in our senior population can also be medically compromising.
The public health benefits of water fluoridation are recognized by more than 100 organizations including the WHO, AMA, American Dental Association, the Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Collier Dental Association urges our city and county officials to reject calls from anti-fluoride activists who want to discontinue this proven practice for protecting the oral health of children and adults in Collier County. Science and years of clinical experience have demonstrated both the clear benefits and the absence of any harmful effects to the health of those in CWF locales. With more than 205 million U.S. residents drinking optimally fluoridated water and 68 years of fluoridation in the U.S., the benefits of this program have stood the test of time.