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Fluoride Facts for Informed Iowans

Posted on February 20, 2019 in Dental Health

Boy filling waterbottle

In 2018, the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation awarded more than $2.3 million to Iowa non-profits to improve the oral and overall health of Iowans. Two of the projects highlighted in our blog post and video “10 Years of Bringing Smiles and Improving the Health of Iowans” included community water fluoridation projects and Rethink Your Drink.

What is community water fluoridation?

Community water fluoridation is the adjustment, up or down, of natural fluoride levels in water systems to prevent tooth decay (cavities). According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, water fluoridation prevents 25 percent of tooth decay for all age groups. For every $1 spent on community water fluoridation, $38 is saved in dental treatment costs.

All Iowa communities – represented by city councils or county boards of supervisors – determine how to manage water fluoridation and all Iowa communities routinely measure the amount of fluoride in the water supply. Some communities choose to only have naturally occurring fluoride in the water supply. Other communities will choose to add a small amount of fluoride to give residents optimally fluoridated water. If you are wondering about your own community, visit My Water’s Fluoride, a voluntary nationwide database hosted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that reports each community and water systems fluoride levels.

Why do we need fluoride?

Our mouths contain bacteria that combine with sugars in the foods we eat as well as the beverages we drink. This produces an acid that harms our teeth. Fluoride strengthens kids’ teeth by fighting off this acid and even reversing early signs of tooth decay.

Community water fluoridation is one of the top public health initiatives of the 20th century according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Working with the Iowa Department of Public Health, Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation provides funding to maintain and support optimally fluoridated water in public water systems. This program can help Iowans of all ages receive a health benefit that helps prevent cavities.

Rethink Your Drink brings optimally fluoridated water to Iowa schools
The Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation has introduced “Rethink Your Drink,” a school education program that helps students, teachers and staff recognize the benefits of choosing optimally fluoridated water over sports drinks, energy drinks or other sugary drink options. Since 2017, 115 schools in Iowa have received free Elkay water fountain/bottle filling stations to update or replace an existing water fountain. Schools were provided with reusable water bottles and toothbrushes for all students and staff.

More than 50 percent of children and teens in the U.S. are not properly hydrated during the school day, which can impact cognitive function and energy levels. Despite efforts by families, schools and public health agencies to educate students on better drink choices, children and teenagers often choose caffeinated beverages, sports drinks and energy drinks.

The schools selected to participate in the Rethink Your Drink program reported that students love filling their water bottles throughout the day, which provides a number of benefits.

  • Students and staff are better hydrated – making them more alert and ready for learning.
  • Optimally fluoridated drinking water protects tooth enamel, making teeth more resistant to cavities.
  • Students and staff are learning a positive health habit they carry forward with their families and communities.
  • The use of water filling stations reduces waste of plastic water bottles.

Get the facts about community water fluoridation

Every Iowa community makes decisions about water fluoridation. Fluoride protects teeth and reduces tooth decay in a person’s lifetime by 25 percent. Major health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and research studies such as the Iowa Fluoride Study show that community water fluoridation is one of the top public health initiatives of the 20th century. The Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation is helping Iowans have healthier smiles and improving the overall health of all Iowans through projects like community water fluoridation and Rethink Your Drink.

For more information on Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation funding for communities, visit our website.