Community Water Fluoridation

Strengthening Community Water Fluoridation to Prevent Cavities

Cavities (tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic diseases among American children and adolescents. In 1945, Grand Rapids, Michigan made history as the first U.S. city to combat cavities by fluoridating its public water supplies. Water fluoridation prevents tooth decay by providing frequent and consistent contact with low levels of fluoride. By keeping the tooth surface strong, fluoride stops cavities from forming. Even before the 15-year study was complete, the results were clear: Compared to children born before the study started, those who were born after had 60% fewer cavities.

Jurisdictions across the country followed Grand Rapids’ lead, and now almost three-quarters of U.S. residents on public water systems benefit from fluoridated water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children living in communities with fluoridated water have about 25% fewer cavities than children in communities without fluoridation. With rising health care costs, community water fluoridation is a cost-effective intervention to prevent oral health complications for people of all backgrounds, regardless of age, education, or income levels.

Source: National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO)

The Virginia Board of Health recommends that all public water systems in Virginia be optimally fluoridated. The Town of Fries and the City of Lynchburg were the first communities to begin water fluoridation in Virginia back in 1952. Now, nearly 6.7 million Virginians benefit from receiving optimally fluoridated drinking water. Over 96% of all Virginians served by community water in Virginia benefit from community water fluoridation. It is considered one of the 10 greatest public health achievements of the past 100 years.

Why is Community Water Fluoridation (CWF) Important?

  • Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease of early childhood. It is five times more prevalent than asthma.
  • CWF reduces tooth decay by about 25 percent.
  • The benefits of fluoridation are long-lasting. A recent study found young children who consumed fluoridated water were still benefiting from this as adults in their 40s and 50s.
  • CWF is the most cost-effective health measure for preventing decay and the most effective way to reduce the gap in tooth decay rates between income groups.
  • At a time when more than 100 million Americans lack dental insurance, fluoridation offers an easy, inexpensive preventive strategy that everyone benefits from simply by turning on their tap.
  • CWF benefits children and adults regardless of income level or insurance status.
  • The cost savings on future dental care are significant: For every $1 spent on water fluoridation, $38 is saved in dental treatment costs.
  • The average cost of fluoridating a local water system is between 40 cents and $2.70 per person, per year.
  • About 74% of Americans connected to public water systems receive fluoridated water.