American Association for Dental Research Affirms Support for Community Water Fluoridation
Guest Blog Post by A. Seun Ajiboye, PhD, Director of Science Policy and Government Affairs, International & American Associations for Dental Research
In 2018, the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) joined a comprehensive list of health and medical organizations in support of community water fluoridation, passing a policy statement affirming its support for community water fluoridation as an evidence-based tooth decay prevention strategy.
Tooth decay, or dental caries, is a highly prevalent disease. It is one of the most common childhood diseases and affects the vast majority of adults. It can cause pain, infection and tooth loss, missed school days for children and work days for parents. In older adults, tooth loss can negatively affect nutritional intake and increase the risk of frailty.
The good news is that tooth decay is a preventable. In the 1940s, communities began supplementing their water supplies with a small amount of fluoride to prevent tooth decay – a practice called community water fluoridation. What began as a small trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan has now reached 75% of the United States population who drink from a community water source. The results are unequivocal – community water fluoridation prevents tooth decay. Since the inception of water fluoridation, the prevalence of tooth decay has plummeted. Over 70 years after the initial trial – even with additional sources of fluoride such as toothpaste – a recent study shows that fluoridation is still an effective means of tooth decay prevention. Community water fluoridation is inexpensive and saves money on dental services.
Despite the enormous number of studies demonstrating the safety of fluoridation, there is still skepticism about the health effects of water fluoridation and other sources of fluoride.
Consequently, the oral health community continues to research water fluoridation to ensure the recommended level reflects lifestyle changes and fluoride intake from other sources. For example, in 2015 the USPHS revised the recommended fluoride level that varied by region to one optimal concentration of 0.7 mg/L to account for fluoride intake from other sources, such fluoride toothpaste, and changes in water intake. This illustrates the willingness of the public health community to change recommendations in light of new data.
Fluoride is an active area of research. As an organization dedicated to advancing research and increasing knowledge for the improvement of oral health, American Association for Dental Research (AADR) strongly supports the continuation of fluoride research to continue maximize the public health benefit of fluoridation while minimizing risks. At this time, the research is clear that community water fluoridation is both safe and effective.