Fluoridated Water: Helping teeth stay cavity free

  • Published
  • By Maj. Nathan Schwamburger
  • 633rd Dental Squadron
Everyone enjoys the crisp, refreshing taste of water after a long workday, but did you know that a glass of water could help you fight tooth decay.

Fluoride, a naturally occurring element, has been added to water for more than 60 years.

Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first city to add fluoride to its community water in an effort to prevent childhood tooth decay.

Fluoride is added to community water, such as Altus AFB, at an average of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million.

Fluoride helps fight tooth decay in two ways. While teeth are forming, fluoride from drinking water incorporates into the enamel or outer layer of our teeth. This strengthens the enamel making it more resistant to decay. As our permanent teeth form, from birth until the ages of 12 to 16, fluoride is a vital part of strong teeth maturing. Fluoride through direct contact with teeth also helps to re-mineralize teeth after decay has started.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that water fluoridation is the most efficient way to prevent one of the most common childhood diseases - tooth decay.

Even with the CDC's recommendation to have fluoridated water, some communities choose not to fluoridate their water. In addition, some people choose to only drink bottled or filtered water. The American Dental Association adds that people who only drink bottled or filtered water could be missing out on the decay-preventing effects of optimally fluoridated water. Most bottled waters do not contain optimal levels of fluoride. To determine if your brand of bottled water contains any fluoride, check the label on the bottle or contact the manufacturer. For those individuals who filter their water check with the manufacturer of the filtration system to determine the product's effects on fluoride in your home water.

If your children are not receiving the optimal amount of fluoride, supplements are available in the form of tablets or drops. Fluoride supplementation can also be prescribed by a dentist or pediatrician.