Over the past 65 years, much has been accomplished, primarily through fluoride, in reducing the damage caused by dental decay. The most inexpensive way to deliver the benefits of fluoride to all residents is through water fluoridation, that is, by adjusting the level of fluoride in the public water supply. All drinking water contains some fluoride. Fluoridation is the intentional upward adjustment of that background level to the amount proven to be safe, effective and economical in prevention of tooth decay.
What is the public health issue?
Oral health is integral to general health. Although preventable, tooth decay is a chronic disease affecting all age groups. In fact, it is the most common chronic disease of childhood. The burden of disease is far worse for those who have limited access to prevention and treatment services. Left untreated, tooth decay can cause pain and tooth loss. Among children, untreated decay has been associated with difficulty in eating, sleeping, learning, and proper nutrition. Among adults, untreated decay and tooth loss can also have negative effects on an individual’s self-esteem and employability.
What is the impact of fluoridation?
Fluoride added to community drinking water at a concentration of 0.7 parts per million has repeatedly been shown to be a safe, inexpensive, and extremely effective method of preventing tooth decay. Because community water fluoridation benefits everyone in the community, regardless of age and socioeconomic status, fluoridation provides protection against tooth decay in populations with limited access to prevention services. In fact, for every dollar spent on community water fluoridation, up to $42 is saved in treatment costs for tooth decay. The Task Force on Community Preventive Services, a national independent, nonfederal, multidisciplinary task force appointed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recently conducted a systematic review of studies of community water fluoridation. They found that, in communities that initiated fluoridation, the decrease in childhood decay was almost 30 percent over 3–12 years of follow-up.
What progress has been made towards reducing dental disease in Arkansas?
During the 2010 legislative session, Act 197 (An Act to provide for certain water systems to maintain a level of fluoride to prevent tooth decay)was passed. The Arkansas Department of Health is very pleased with the progress achieved since passage of Act 197:
- Thirty-one of the thirty-four water systems affected by the ACT 197 have already submitted fluoride plans and funding requests to the Delta Dental Foundation
- Twenty-four water systems have completed construction and are on-line providing the benefits of fluoridated water to 76% of Arkansas citizens.
- Eighteen water systems are in active construction and have completion dates specified.
- Three water systems have not submitted a grant request
The Arkansas Department of Health and the Delta Dental Foundation are committed to assisting water systems in their efforts to provide fluoridated water to Arkansas citizens. The Delta Dental Foundation has pledged funding to purchase fluoridation equipment for all 34 water systems and is dedicated to helping reduce the effects of dental disease in Arkansas.
All documents are in PDF format unless otherwise noted.
Learn the fluoridation status of your water system
The best source of information on fluoride levels in your water system is your local water utility. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sponsors a web page entitled My Water’s Fluoride which allows consumers to learn the fluoridation status of their water system.