The American Dental Association (ADA) observes National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM) in February to spread dental health awareness. As the year of 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of community water fluoridation, the NCDHM campaign slogan is “Fluoride in water prevents cavities! Get it from the tap!”
Dental and oral health is an essential part of our overall health and well-being. Children with poor oral and dental health can lead to cavities, one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. Cavities cause pain and infections that can lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. National Children’s Dental Health Month brings together thousands of dedicated professionals, healthcare providers, and educators to promote the benefits of good oral health among children, their caregivers, teachers, and many others.
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities in children and adults and often called nature’s cavity fighter. Fluoride makes the enamel of your teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause tooth decay. Fluoride from drinking water and other sources such as tooth paste can strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent tooth decay. According to the ADA, fluoride in water is the most efficient way to prevent tooth decay in children. This has made community water fluoridation a common practice.
Community water fluoridation is so effective at preventing tooth decay that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) named it one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Grand Rapids, Michigan fluoridated its drinking water in 1945, becoming the first city in the world to do so. More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective and prevents tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults. According to the CDC, children living in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer cavities than children whose water is not fluoridated and similarly, children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have fewer cavities.
Reasons why fluoride in water is good:
- Prevents tooth decay, one of the most common childhood diseases.
- Fluoride benefits both children and adults against cavities.
- The best available scientific evidence consistently indicates that community water fluoridation is safe and effective.
- Fluoridation saves money, as the average lifetime cost per person to fluoridate a water supply is less than the cost of one dental filling. For most cities, every $1 invested in water fluoridation saves $38 in dental treatment costs.
- Fluoride is natural, as it is present in groundwater and the oceans. Fluoridating water is similar to fortifying salt with iodine, milk with vitamin D, orange juice with calcium, and bread with folic acid.
Children and Fluoride: What You Should Know
Here are some recommendations about children and fluoride from www.healthychildren.org:
- Make sure your children are drinking plenty of water and brushing with toothpaste that has fluoride in it.
- Use fluoridated water to mix infant formula. The ADA says it is safe to do so, but if you have concerns about this, talk with your pediatrician or dentist.
- If the water is not fluoridated in the community you live in, consult your pediatrician or dentist for a solution. He/she may recommend buying fluoridated water or will prescribe fluoride drops or tablets for your child.
- Make sure your child eats a balanced diet with plenty of calcium and vitamin D is a great way to keep teeth healthy.
- Consult your dentist or pediatrician about a topical fluoride treatment during well child or dental visits at various stages of your child’s development.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) along with the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay. For more guidance, talk to your pediatrician or dentist.