When you think about the year 1945, you might think of many world–changing events, like the conclusion of World War II or the start of the United Nations. However, often overlooked in the same year, none other than Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first U.S. city to fluoridate its public water supply.
While this might seem like a minor piece of news in comparison with the other events occurring at the same time, the truth is that community water fluoridation has proven to be one of public health’s greatest success stories, improving the health and well being of people in the United States and around the world.
As your local Carrollton dentists, we hope you’ll celebrate fluoride’s 75 birthday with us! Keep reading to learn how this odorless and colorless natural mineral changed the trajectory of oral health for decades to come.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a natural mineral found in water, soil, plants, rocks and air. It’s surprisingly widely–distributed in nature. So, why would we want it in the water supply?
Fluoride is commonly used in dentistry to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. Fluoride protects your teeth by making tooth enamel more resilient to the bacteria that feed on tooth surfaces. Once in your enamel, fluoride combines with the calcium and phosphate to create a stronger outer layer. Worn enamel can lead to weak teeth that easily chip or break. Thanks to fluoride in toothpaste, for instance, teeth are stronger, and there has been a significant decline in cavities.
Just like with any supplement, however, it’s important to understand how to properly use fluoride and how to prevent any harm from overuse. It’s such an important factor in keeping your mouth healthy, however, that this quick education will be all you need to drastically decrease your chance of tooth decay.
Why was fluoride added to the water supply?
For 75 years, people in the United States have benefited from drinking water with fluoride and better dental health as a consequence. Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities by 25% in children and adults alike. By preventing cavities, community water fluoridation has been shown to save money for families and for the U.S. health care system, too.
Because of its contribution to the large decline in cavities in the United States since the 1960s, the CDC named community water fluoridation “one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.”
In the 1930s, scientists examined the relationship between tooth decay in children and naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water. The study found that children who drank water with naturally high levels of fluoride had less tooth decay. After much additional research, in 1945, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first municipality in the U.S. to add fluoride to its city water system to provide residents with the benefits of fluoride. This process of testing the water supply for fluoride and adjusting it to the right amount is called community water fluoridation.
Can you get too much fluoride?
There can always be too much of a good thing. And, some years ago, there was special concern about children ingesting fluoride in large quantities in toothpaste that the youngest children are hard-pressed to spit out. The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to stand by the benefits of fluoride, however, and officially recommends choosing a toothpaste for children that contains fluoride. While fluoride is an essential tool to fight cavities, it is important to be on the lookout for dental fluorosis if you’re concerned about too much fluoride. This condition is caused in children under age eight, when teeth are still forming in the gums. It’s estimated less than one in four people have this purely cosmetic condition. To minimize the risk, use the appropriate amount of toothpaste and teach your children how to spit it out instead of swallowing.
Fluoride in North Texas’ water
The Texas Fluoridation Program (TFP) works to improve the health of Texans by preventing tooth decay through community water fluoridation. To check to see if the water in your area is fluorinated, check out the CDC website here. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a level of 0.7 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) of fluoride in your drinking water. This is the level that prevents tooth decay and promotes good oral health.
Questions? Call our Carrollton office! We’d love to address any curiosities or concerns you have.