National Governors Association Promotes Community Water Fluoridation
In an October 2015 paper, Health Investments that Pay Off: Strategies to Improve Oral Health, the National Governors Association (NGA) recommends that governors who want to address oral health needs should consider interventions with strong evidence of improving health outcomes, including community water fluoridation (CWF). Noting that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease and is yet preventable, the paper suggests that CWF not only improves health outcomes but does so within a shorter timeframe – three years – than other interventions. Needless to say, governors and other state leaders are deeply concerned about reducing health care costs. CWF offers a proven return on investment.
The NGA isn’t all about dollars and cents, though. This well-researched and copiously referenced paper is unflinching in its description of why we need to prevent tooth decay.
- The burden of dental disease is disproportionately heavy among low-income people.
- Families living below the poverty level experience higher rates of tooth decay.
- Children suffer the most. One out of every four children between age 6-19 living in poverty suffer from untreated decay.
- Even above the poverty level, rates of untreated tooth decay are almost twice as high among African-American and Hispanic children.
- Untreated decay affects all aspects of a person’s life, compromising one’s ability to eat, sleep, play and learn, and negatively affecting self-esteem and social development.
- Access to preventive dental care is a problem for low-income families for reasons ranging from lack of insurance to lack of local health professionals.
- Children with preventable dental disease end up in costly emergency rooms tens of thousands of times each year.
Community water fluoridation is, for many people, the most available, inexpensive and effective form of prevention. No wonder the NGA has joined the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry, the American Dental Association and countless others in calling for renewed investment in this common-sense intervention.