Pennsylvania Dental Association Stresses Benefits of Fluoridation

Jul 22, 2011, 09:51 ET from Pennsylvania Dental Association

HARRISBURG, Pa., July 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Tooth decay remains a health care problem that touches people of all ages. Many communities could benefit greatly and reduce tooth decay significantly by implementing nature's cavity fighter, fluoride.  

The past 65 years of scientific studies prove that fluoridation of community water supplies is safe, strengthens teeth and helps prevent cavities by making tooth enamel harder and more resistant to acids. It is effective in reducing tooth decay by 20 to 40 percent, even with the high availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.

Dr. Linda Himmelberger, a general dentist and Pennsylvania Dental Association former president from Devon, says fluoride fights cavities in several ways.

"In developing teeth, the fluoride becomes part of the enamel and actually causes it to become denser and stronger so it is more resistant to the acids that are produced by the bacteria that cause decay," Dr. Himmelberger said. "Once the teeth are fully formed and present in the mouth, fluoride can be taken in by exposed root surfaces, strengthening them, making them more resistant to decay and can even reverse decay that is forming."

Dr. Himmelberger stresses that more than 1,000 studies have been done on the safety and benefits of community water fluoridation.

"These studies by scientists, nationally and internationally, have demonstrated that fluoride at the recommended levels is both safe and effective for reducing decay and tooth loss," she said.

The first step to ensuring all Pennsylvanians have preventive dental care is to fluoridate our public water systems. Adding fluoride to the drinking water ensures that everyone, regardless of age or income, receives valuable health benefits.

Currently, only 54 percent of Pennsylvanians are receiving optimally fluoridated water, with rural communities missing the benefits the most. People who live in these areas are in need of basic oral health care. Fifty-one percent of rural children receive regular dental services, compared to 61 percent of urban children. Community water fluoridation is needed to help improve the oral health and lives of all residents who live in rural Pennsylvania.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of the most important public health achievements of the 20th century. It is one public health program that actually saves money. The average cost for optimally fluoridating a public water supply is approximately 51 cents per person a year. For every dollar invested in fluoridation, a person saves more than $80 in dental treatment costs. Fluoridation also would save money in the state Medicaid budget and reduce the amount of school hours lost per year due to dental-related illness.

Fluoride occurs naturally in all water sources, such as rivers, lakes and oceans. It is nature's way to fight cavities. Optimally fluoridating a community water supply simply raises the natural concentrations of fluoride ions to a range established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Agency (HHS). Adding fluoride to water is similar to adding Vitamin D to milk and iodine to salt.

HHS recently announced a proposal recommending that water systems practicing fluoridation adjust their fluoride content to 0.7 ppm (parts per million), as opposed to the previous temperature-dependent optimal levels ranging from 0.7 ppm to 1.2 ppm.

The original range was based on the concept that people in cooler climates typically drink less water per day than people in warmer climates. Therefore, in coolers areas, a higher fluoride level is required to provide the same dental health benefits. However, research has shown that air temperature does not affect the amount of water people drink. This adjustment will still provide an effective level of fluoride to reduce tooth decay while minimizing the rate of fluorosis in the general population, especially children.

About the Pennsylvania Dental Association

Founded in 1868, the Pennsylvania Dental Association (PDA) is comprised of approximately 6,000 member dentists. It is a constituency of the American Dental Association (ADA), the largest and oldest national dental society in the world. PDA's mission is to improve the public health, promote the art and science of dentistry and represent the interests of its member dentists and their patients. PDA is the voice of dentistry in Pennsylvania. For more information on PDA, visit our website at

SOURCE Pennsylvania Dental Association