Community Water Flouridation

 

Community Water Fluoridation

Oral health and general health are strongly linked. Fluoride has been shown to improve oral health, which is strongly linked to improved general health.

Community water fluoridation has been identified by the Canadian Public Health Association as one of the twelve great public health milestones in the past 100 years. The use of fluoride in the prevention of tooth decay continues to be endorsed by over 90 national and international professional health organizations, and is recommended by Saskatchewan's Medical Health Officers.

An appropriate amount of fluoride is effective to prevent tooth decay. Fluorides are found naturally to some extent in the soil, some foods and water. All humans ingest fluoride on a daily basis. Individuals also benefit from fluoride in the form of toothpastes and rinses. Dental professionals provide added protection with the application of gels, foams and varnishes. Several communities adjust the concentration of fluoride in their drinking water. This is called community water fluoridation.

Community water fluoridation is known to improve dental health safely and effectively at a very reasonable cost. Most communities in Saskatchewan have between 0.1 - 0.2 mg/Litre of naturally occurring fluoride in their water. For dental benefits, the recommended optimal level of fluoride is 0.7 mg/Litre. The decision to fluoridate is made locally at the community level. In Saskatchewan, 58 communities have opted for community water fluoridation.

Saskatchewan Ministry of Health’s Position Statement on Community Water Fluoridation

The Ministry of Health continues to support Community Water Fluoridation as a safe and effective public health measure in preventing tooth decay. Water fluoridation benefits all residents serviced by community water supplies regardless of their age, social or economic status.

The use of fluoride for the prevention of tooth decay is endorsed by over 90 national and international professional health organizations, including Health Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization.

In Saskatchewan, Community Water Fluoridation is endorsed by the Medical Health Officers' Council of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Public Health Association, the College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan, and the Saskatchewan Dental Therapists, Hygienists and Assistants Associations.

To ensure quality, effective, accountable health care, we need to base our decisions about programs and services on sound research and data.

For more than 60 years, studies continue to see the cost-effective benefit of community water fluoridation where people living in communities with fluoridated water have fewer cavities than those living where the water is not fluoridated.

In 2011, the Medical Health Officers' Council of Saskatchewan supported Health Canada's recommendation of a level of 0.7 mg/L as the optimal target concentration for fluoride in drinking water.

The fluoridation of drinking water supplies is a decision that is made by each municipality in collaboration with the appropriate provincial authorities.

Community Water Fluoridation - Common Questions

What is community water fluoridation?

Community water fluoridation is the process of adjusting the natural fluoride concentration of a community's water supply. It is adjusted to the level that is ideal to prevent dental decay. Some communities have enough natural fluoride in their water. Most communities in Saskatchewan have between 0.1 - 0.2 mg/Litre of naturally occurring fluoride in their water. For a dental benefit, the fluoride level needs to be adjusted to 0.7 mg/Litre.

How much is 0.7 mg/L?
To understand this amount, it can be compared to 3/4 inch in 16 miles, 45 seconds in 2 years, or less than 1 cent in $10,000.

How does fluoride work to reduce tooth decay?

Fluoride works to reduce tooth decay in two ways:

Before teeth appear: Fluoride is absorbed into the bloodstream. It becomes part of the enamel during the time teeth are developing.

After teeth appear: Fluoride comes in direct contact with the enamel on the outside of the tooth. It creates a tooth surface that is more resistant to decay.

What are the benefits of community water fluoridation?

The most common benefits include:

  • 20-40 percent less dental decay in people of all ages;
  • prevention of pain, infection and tooth loss;
  • lower dental costs for repairing decayed teeth;
  • fewer school and work hours missed due to oral health problems and dental visits; and
  • improved oral health over a lifetime.

Do adults benefit from drinking fluoridated water?

Yes! People of all ages benefit from drinking fluoridated water. Adults and seniors are keeping their teeth longer. Root caries (decay found on the surface of teeth near the gums) is increasing in this age group.

Research shows that people who live all of their lives in areas with sufficient fluoride in their drinking water have 20 to 40 percent less tooth decay.

Why is community water fluoridation an ideal public health method?

Community water fluoridation is safe, cost effective, practical and effective.

The entire community benefits regardless of:

  • age;
  • income;
  • education;
  • employment;
  • individual motivation;
  • availability of dentists; or
  • financial ability to pay for dental services.

Unlike other ways of preventing dental decay, no individual effort or direct action needs to be taken. All people drink water and eat food prepared with water, therefore everyone using fluoridated water will automatically benefit.

Dental disease is the number one chronic disease among children and adolescents in North America. This makes fluoridation an important public health measure.

According to the Findings and Recommendations of the Fluoride Expert Panel for Health Canada, "Community water fluoridation remains an effective public health method to reduce the prevalence of decay in the Canadian population."
(Health Canada/2007)

Is community water fluoridation safe?

Community water fluoridation has proven to be safe through both practical experience and research. The safety of fluoride has been studied more thoroughly than any other public health measure during the past 60 years.

Over 405 million people world-wide enjoy the benefits of fluoridated drinking water.

Who supports fluoridation?

The use of fluoride in the prevention of tooth decay continues to be endorsed by over 90 national and international professional health organizations including Health Canada, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association, and the World Health Organization. (March/2008)

What is the current status of community water fluoridation in Saskatchewan?

Less than 37 percent of the population in Saskatchewan currently has access to water with sufficient levels of fluoride.

Is the drinking water in my community fluoridated?

To find out if your water is fluoridated, check with your municipal government or local public health office.

Community water fluoridation is an effective way to prevent dental decay.

Fluoridation:

  • is an effective way to reduce tooth decay;
  • is safe;
  • benefits people of all ages;
  • reduces the cost of dental treatment;
  • is equitable; and
  • requires no individual action or effort by those who will benefit.

"One of the twelve great public health milestones in the past 100 years."

What the National and International Experts Say About Water Fluoridation

Canadian Dental Association 

The Canadian Dental Association supports the appropriate use of fluorides in dentistry as one of the most successful preventive health measures in the history of health care. Over 50 years of extensive research throughout the world has consistently demonstrated the safety and effectiveness of fluorides in the prevention of dental caries. More…  

American Dental Association 

The American Dental Association unreservedly endorses the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay. This support has been the Association's position since policy was first adopted in 1950. More…

US Centers for Disease Control 

Community water fluoridation prevents tooth decay safely and effectively. The Center for Disease Control identifies it as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. More… 

U.S. Surgeon General

…[C]ommunity water fluoridation continues to be the most cost-effective, equitable and safe means to provide protection from tooth decay in a community. Scientific studies have found that people living in communities with fluoridated water have fewer cavities than those living where the water is not fluoridated. For more than 50 years, small amounts of fluoride have been added to drinking water supplies in the United States where naturally-occurring fluoride levels are too low to protect teeth from decay. Over 8,000 communities are currently adjusting the fluoride in their community’s water to a level that can protect the oral health of their citizens. More…

World Health Organization

The experts reaffirmed the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and safety of the daily use of optimal fluoride. They confirmed that universal access to fluoride for dental health is a part of the basic human right to health. More…

What You Can Do to Support Water Fluoridation in Your Community

The first thing you should do is get to know the facts.

Read what respected national and international health bodies are saying about the use of fluoridated water and the underlying benefits to communities around the world.

If your community is one of the few in Ontario without water fluoridation, contact your local councilor and mayor and ask them why they haven’t implemented water fluoridation in your community. In the past year, some councils in municipalities across Ontario revisited the issue of water fluoridation in their community. The ODA actively participated in these local debates, providing advice and scientific evidence on the beneficial use of fluoride. 

Resources

Canadian Dental Association:

  1. CDA Position on Use of Fluorides in Caries Prevention 

Health Canada:

  1. Status of Water Fluoridation in Canada - Chief Dental Officer of Canada
  2. Fluoride and Human Health 
  3. Summary Report on the Findings of the Oral Health Component of the Canadian Health Measures Survey 2007-2009 
  4. Canadian Health Measures Survey Oral Health Statistics 2007-2009

American Dental Association

  1. Fluoride & Fluoridation Home Page 
  2. American Dental Association and CDC Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Community Water Fluoridation
  3. Fluoridation Facts

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  1. Community Water Fluoridation Home Page
  2. Fluoride Legislative User Information Database (FLUID)
  3. US Surgeon General's Statement on Community Water Fluoridation (2004)

World Health Organization

  1. Water fluoridation website page
  2. Call to Action to Promote Dental Health by Using Fluoride (Joint release with the FDI World Dental Federation and the International Association for Dental Research)
  3. Briefing on Fluoride in Drinking Water

Other

  1. Globe & Mail editorial: "Calgary's Council Votes Against Teeth" (February 24, 2011)

References

1 Government of Saskatchewan website, Community Water Fluoridation

2 Government of Saskatchewan website, Saskatchewan Ministry of Health's Position Statement on Community Water Fluoridation

3 Government of Saskatchewan website, Community Water Fluoridation - Common Questions