Introduction l Fluoridation Facts 9 report on oral health, Oral Health in America: a Report of the Surgeon General.38 In the report, Dr. Satcher stated that community water fluoridation continues to be the most cost-effective, practical and safe means for reducing and controlling the occurrence of tooth decay in a community. Additionally, Dr. Satcher noted that water fluoridation is a powerful strategy in efforts to eliminate health disparities among populations. Studies have shown that fluoridation is the most significant strategy employed to reduce disparities in tooth decay.38-42 Additional information about this topic can be found in the Public Policy Section, Question 59. Because of the important role fluoridation has played in the reduction of tooth decay, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proclaimed community water fluoridation one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century.1, 2 In the 2003 National Call to Action to Promote Oral Health,43 U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona called on policymakers, community leaders, private industry, health professionals, the media and the public to affirm that oral health is essential to general health and well-being. Additionally, Dr. Carmona urged these groups to apply strategies to enhance the adoption and maintenance of proven community-based interventions such as community water fluoridation. Writing in Public Health Reports in 2010, Surgeon General Dr. Rebecca Benjamin noted that, “Community water fluoridation continues to be a vital, cost-effective method of preventing dental caries.”44 In a 2015 Surgeon’s General Perspective45 issued to coincide with the release of the updated USPHS recommendation on fluoride levels in drinking water to prevent tooth decay, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy stated, “As Surgeon General, I encourage all Americans to make choices that enable them to prevent illness and promote well-being. Community water fluoridation is one of the most practical, cost- effective, equitable, and safe measures communities can take to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health.”45 Established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Healthy People 202046 provides a science-based, comprehensive set of ambitious, yet achievable, ten-year national objectives for improving the health of the public. Included under oral health is an objective to expand the fluoridation of public water supplies. Objective 13 states that at least 79.6% of the U.S. population served by community water systems should be receiving the benefits of optimally fluoridated water by the year 2020.47 In 2014, the CDC indicated that 74.4% of the U.S. population on public water systems, or a total of 211.4 million people, had access to fluoridated water.48 After more than four years of additional research and review following the initial notice of intent, in 2015 the DHHS announced that the U.S. Public Health Service had made a final recommendation on the fluoride level in drinking water30 that updated and replaced the 1962 Drinking Water Standards related to community water fluoridation. In this guidance, the optimal concentration of fluoride in drinking water of 0.7 mg/L (milligrams per liter) was defined as “the concentration that provides the best balance of protection from dental caries while limiting the risk of dental fluorosis.”30 Additional information about this topic can be found in the Safety Section, Question 19. Water Fluoridation’s Role in Reducing Tooth Decay Water fluoridation has played a significant role in improving oral health. Numerous studies and reviews have been published making fluoridation one of the most widely studied public health measures in history. Fluoridation of community water supplies is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay. Studies show that community water fluoridation prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children49 and adults,50 even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste. Fluoridation helps to prevent, and in some cases, reverse tooth decay across the life span. Increasing numbers of adults are retaining their teeth throughout their lifetimes due in part to the benefits they receive from water fluoridation. Dental costs for these individuals are likely to have been reduced and many
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