The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognize fluoridated water as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in all water. The fluoride ion comes from the element fluorine. Fluorine, the 17th most abundant element in the earth's crust, is never encountered in its free state in nature. It exists only in combination with other elements as a fluoride compound.
Fluoride comes in two forms: topical and systemic. Topical fluorides include toothpaste, mouth rinse and professionally applied fluoride gels and rinses.
Systemic fluorides are those that are ingested. Sources of systemic fluorides include water, dietary fluoride supplements in the forms of tablets, drops or lozenges and fluoride present in food and beverages.
Community water fluoridation is the adjustment of the natural fluoride concentration in water up to the level recommended for optimal dental health (a range of 0.7 to 1.2 ppm). Other terms used interchangeably are water fluoridation, fluoridation and optimally fluoridated water.
There is no difference in the effectiveness between naturally occurring fluoridated water (at optimal fluoride levels) and water that has fluoride added to reach the optimal level.
The effectiveness of water fluoridation has been documented in scientific literature for more than 50 years. Even before the first community fluoridation program began in 1945, data from the 1930s and 1940s show lower decay rates in children consuming naturally occurring fluoridated water compared to children consuming fluoride-deficient water. Many subsequent studies continue to prove fluoride's effectiveness in decay reduction. If fluoridation is discontinued, tooth decay is expected to increase.
In spite of the overall decrease in tooth decay in the past 20 years, tooth decay remains the most common and costly oral health problem in all age groups. It is one of the principal causes of tooth loss from early childhood through middle age.
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