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Community Water Fluoridation

By Jill Feilmeier on July 1, 2014 in Giving Back

Water Fluoridation

Although cities in Iowa aren't obligated to fluoridate water, many localities like Des Moines, Sioux City and Cedar Rapids have decided to optimize the level of fluoride in public water.

In Iowa, 92% of residents who consume water from a public water supply received optimally fluoridated water! But how does this top 10 public health achievement actually decrease the occurrence of tooth decay?

Fluoride is absorbed into the tooth enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to decay, and helps repair (remineralize) tooth surfaces that are damaged by acid produced by certain bacteria in the mouth. Since U.S. cities began adding fluoride to water supplies more than 65 years ago, tooth decay has decreased dramatically. According to the American Dental Association's Fluoride Facts, cities that fluoridate their drinking water reduce cavities in children by 20-40%.

The key to fluoride's protective benefit is maintaining a little fluoride on your teeth throughout the day. Brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day, drinking fluoridated water and limiting frequent between-meal snacking on sugary or starchy foods will help keep most children and adults tooth decay-free.

If children don't have access to fluoridated water, there are a few ways to increase their exposure to this tooth-saving compound:

  • Use fluoridated toothpastes, mouth rinses and/or professionally-applied gels or varnishes. These products can help strengthen teeth by hardening the outer enamel surface. With toothpaste and rinses, young children tend to swallow most of what is placed in their mouth. The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends brushing twice a day and placing a “smear” of toothpaste about the size of a grain of rice, on your child's brush as soon as the baby teeth start erupting into the mouth (about age six months). When your child is about two or three you can move up to a small pea size amount. Fluoride rinses shouldn't be used until good swallowing reflexes have developed, about ages 6 or 7.
  • Dietary fluoride supplements, such as tablets, drops or lozenges, are typically available only by prescription and are intended for children older than 6 months living in areas without fluoridated water in their community.
  • Buy bottled water that states on the label that it contains the recommended amount of fluoride.

Through its Community Water Fluoridation Award, the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation continues to assist with fluoridation of public water supplies where fluoride is deficient, non-existent, or expenses for necessary equipment upgrades threaten the continuation of water fluoridation. To find out the fluoridation status of your local water supply, contact your city water department or local water provider.