Statement from the CDC on Water Fluoridation

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Water fluoridation is recognized by the CDC as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th Century. Community water fluoridation reduces tooth decay, supports overall good health, and helps millions of Americans avoid pain and suffering. It is safe, very effective and inexpensive; and benefits everyone regardless of age, income and their access to care. The safety and benefits of water fluoridation are well documented and have been reviewed comprehensively by several scientific and public health organizations.

Background information

  • About 75% of people on public water systems—or 210 million Americans—experience the benefits of community water fluoridation.
  • The safety and effectiveness of fluoride at levels used in community water fluoridation have been thoroughly reviewed by multinational scientific and public health organizations (e.g., World Health Organization) using evidence-based reviews and expert panels. These panels include scientists with expertise in various health and scientific disciplines, including medicine, biophysics, chemistry, toxicological pathology, oral health, and epidemiology.
  • Experts have weighed the findings and quality of available evidence and concluded that there is no association between water fluoridation and any unwanted health effects other than dental fluorosis.
  • Dental fluorosis is a change in dental enamel that is primarily cosmetic in its most common form. In the US today, the vast majority of dental fluorosis is very mild or mild, with no effect on how teeth look or function.
  • Each generation born since the implementation of water fluoridation has enjoyed better dental health than the preceding generation.
  • Before community water fluoridation began 70 years ago, nearly everyone had tooth decay. It was not uncommon for 13-year olds to have lost one or more permanent teeth to decay. As recently as the 1950s, about half of Americans over 65 had lost all their natural teeth, which many replaced with dentures. Post-fluoridation, this phenomenon in the US has almost disappeared.
  • Today, youth ages 12-17 have an average of 3 teeth with cavities, down from an average of 6 teeth with cavities in the 1970s.
  • Between the 1960s and 2004, the average number of teeth with dental cavities among adults decreased from 18 to 10.
  • Even though fluoride is now available from other sources, including toothpaste, mouth rinses, and professionally applied products, community water fluoridation remains a very effective approach in preventing tooth decay.
  • In studies conducted after other fluoride products, such as toothpaste, were widely available, scientists found additional reductions in tooth decay – up to 25% – among people with community water fluoridation as compared to those without fluoridation.

Additional resources of interest