Drinking Water to Prevent Tooth Decay

April 15, 2015

Filling glass of tap water

Spring brings a fresh new look to everything outside and the first week of April brings a fresh awareness to National Public Health Week. Public health encompasses health concerns and diseases that affect a large number of people and the efforts taken to eliminate or reduce illness, death or disability.

Published in 1999, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) created a list of the top ten greatest public health achievements for the 20th century, one of which is water fluoridation. Beginning with research started in 1901 by Dr. Fredrick McKay of Colorado Springs, CO water fluoridation has proven to reduce the incidence of dental decay by more than 60 percent. Today, fluoride remains the dental communities’ main weapon in the fight to prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride’s history as a decay prevention tool began with Dr. McKay’s inquiry into the brown staining of children’s teeth when he began practicing dentistry in Colorado Springs. Not only did the children’s teeth present with what became known as Colorado Brown Stain, but they were also “surprisingly and inexplicably resistant to decay”. * Dr. McKay was unable to explain this phenomenon, but his inquiry triggered the curiosity of others in the industry.

Enlisting the help of the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and then the National Institute of Health (NIH), Dr. McKay was able to get someone studying the water contents and analyzing the fluoride levels. Grand Rapids, MI was the first city in the nation to fluoridate their drinking water and decay in children born after this event was shown to decrease by 60 percent. This was an amazing scientific breakthrough, making tooth decay a preventable disease for most people, just by drinking fluoridated water. Scientific research is available through the CDC to show the benefits of water fluoridation in the prevention of tooth decay.

Addition of fluoride to community water sources has been adjusted over the years to achieve the maximum benefit and reduce the risk of fluorosis, or brown staining. Nearly all water sources contain naturally occurring fluoride and because of this, dental fluorosis is a risk to some individuals even if the water has not been enhanced. Living in a community with fluoridated water limits the amount of additional fluoride a person needs for decay prevention. In areas with no community fluoridated water supply, fluoride supplements can be added to oral health care routines. Ask your dental provider for the best option based on your community water source and the risk of developing tooth decay.

Click here to see a short video on water fluoridation provided by Delta Dental.

* http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/topics/fluoride/thestoryoffluoridation.htm



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