Celebrate water fluoridation as a public health achievement

Safer commutes to work or school. Freedom from worry about smallpox, one of the most devastating diseases ever. Community water fluoridation. Public health has made these and other harm reduction practices possible where we live, learn, work, play, and pray.

The first full week in April is National Public Health Week (NPHW). We celebrate the fundamental role public health has in our lives and the health of our communities.

During NPHW (April 1-7) we can reflect on the progress made through investments in public health and preventive health measures. At Arcora Foundation, community water fluoridation and its profound impact on improving oral–and overall–health is one of those measures. 

National Public Health Week is an annual recognition of the contributions of public health and highlight issues that are important to improving our nation’s health.

For nearly 80 years, a good balance of fluoride in public drinking water has improved oral health. Now roughly 73% of the U.S. population benefits from it. Community water fluoridation is one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century because it is a cost-effective, natural, and equitable way to prevent oral disease. Research shows that fluoridation has played an important role in the reduction of tooth decay in children—40%-70%—and of tooth loss in adults—40%-60%. Research estimates community water fluoridation saves billions of dollars nationwide in annual health care costs.

The benefits of a good fluoride balance in our tap water extend beyond cavity prevention. Poor oral health impacts overall health and has been linked to diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy complications, and other serious or life-threatening conditions.

NPHW should inspire us to support preventive health measures. The expansion of community water fluoridation so every Washington resident can benefit from it is a step in that direction. Currently, 56% of Washingtonians receive fluoridated water from their community water systems. No one should be denied access to this public health achievement based on who they are and where they live. When the benefits of water fluoridation reach more residents, it fosters a healthier, more equitable society for generations to come.

“I’ve practiced dentistry for 48 years in communities in many parts of the country: some fluoridated, some not. When I do a new patient exam, I can instantly tell whether an adult has grown up from an early age in a fluoridated community. Fluoridated water makes a difference and reaches all residents of a community on a public water system. It’s equitable, cost effective, and is the ideal public health measure, not requiring a change in behavior. Over my career, I’ve learned that one cannot have good health without good oral health.”

Kurt L. Ferré, DDS
American Fluoridation Society

NPHW is not just a period of reflection; it’s also a call to action. At the heart of NPHW’s week-long celebration is the hope that everyone will commit to protect and improve the health of our communities. Let’s work together to prevent diseases like oral disease—which is almost entirely preventable—and champion policies that advance oral health for all with no one left behind.

We can’t do this work without you. Advancing oral health requires public and private partnerships, policy advocacy, and funding. Join us in our mission to bend the arc of oral health toward equity. Learn more and contact us at info@arcorafoundation.org.

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