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Fluoridated water is safe, cheap oral health benefit

It is one of the easiest, most reliable ways to improve the oral health of an entire community. Additionally, it has been named “one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is it? You may have already had access to it. It is fluoridated water, and the positive outcomes from this public health initiative have significantly impacted the oral health of young and old across the nation for more than 70 years.

Today, almost 75 percent of the U.S. population using public water systems has access to optimally fluoridated water. Unfortunately, the residents of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are not part of this majority.

Reportedly in response to an initiative by the Environmental Protection Agency and the CDC to re-evaluate the optimal level of fluoride in community water systems, the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority discontinued supplemental fluoridation in 2011.

The CDC quickly reissued a recommendation of 0.7 parts per million, but the ABCWUA claimed to need a recommendation by both federal agencies.

Although most community water supplies have naturally occurring fluoride, it can usually be at too low a level for optimum prevention of tooth decay. This is the situation in Albuquerque.

Currently, the fluoride levels in the city’s natural water system average about 0.4 parts per million. For every decrease of 0.3 ppm the preventive effectiveness falls by two-thirds.

It took scientists decades to determine the right balance of water fluoridation. Yet their due diligence has demonstrated how the proper levels of fluoride can help strengthen tooth enamel and remineralize teeth that have already been damaged by the early effects of tooth decay.

Fluoridated water has significantly improved the oral health of Americans across the nation. When the process was introduced more than 70 years ago in Grand Rapids, Mich., early studies indicated that safe levels of water fluoridation reduced the amount of cavities in children by as much as 60 percent and reduced tooth decay in permanent teeth nearly 35 percent.

Today, studies continue to prove that the fluoridation process is effective in reducing tooth decay by 20 to 40 percent, even during a time where fluoride can be found in other products, such as toothpaste. With fluoride available in both sources, this one-two preventive punch has been the greatest contributor to the improvement of oral health for many.

According to the American Dental Association, in most cities, it’s estimated that every $1 invested in water fluoridation can save $38 in dental treatment costs down the road.

Although ABCWUA staff members’ intentions may be good, this speaks loudly against the argument that dollars once allocated to water fluoridation projects should now be allocated to dental health clinics and public service announcement education, both common anti-fluoridation recommendations.

The safety of community water fluoridation at optimal levels has been studied by literally every health and safety agency worldwide. Claims by opponents of community water fluoridation about negative side effects have never been supported by sound scientific studies.

The Environmental Protection Agency has now affirmed the safety of 0.7 ppm for community water fluoridation. A recommendation to resume funding community water fluoridation is now before the ABCWUA Governing Board. That board meeting occurs Wednesday.

Delta Dental of New Mexico hopes Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority Governing Board members will affirm resumption of community water fluoridation and encourages all community leaders to support the fluoridation of their local water systems.

With research confirming that fluoride can protect your teeth across your entire lifetime, Delta Dental of New Mexico is proud to support this important dental health initiative in the interest of improving public oral health, both by the toothbrush and by the glass.

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