Washington state lags behind the nation in providing lauded public health measure
Water fluoridation: A public health achievement celebrates 75th anniversary
SEATTLE – Saturday (Jan. 25th) marks the 75th anniversary of community water fluoridation in the United States.
On January 25, 1945, Grand Rapids, Mich. became the first US city to fluoridate its drinking water, thus guaranteeing the optimal balance of fluoride to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities. Since then, major cities, suburban communities, small towns and military bases throughout the US have followed suit.
Today, 74.4% of US residents – more than 211 million – enjoy the benefits of improved oral health through the simple act of drinking tap water. Statewide, 56% of Washington residents have access to fluoride in their drinking water. In King County, about 80% of residents have access to the benefits of drinking water with fluoride.
“Water fluoridation is one of the most cost-effective and equitable measures communities can take to protect teeth and prevent painful cavities,” said Rachael Hogan, DDS, Swinomish Tribe dental director and Arcora Foundation board member. “That is why the Swinomish Tribe has provided this valuable public health benefit for more than 30 years. Regrettably, that’s not the case for far too many in our state.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists water fluoridation as one of the Top 10 public health triumphs of the 20th Century alongside seatbelts, workplace safety and vaccinations.
Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter and is found in virtually all water supplies, including lakes, rivers and the Puget Sound. Water with fluoride strengthens tooth enamel as it forms and helps protect against acids that cause decay. Studies consistently demonstrate that providing the right balance of fluoride in water helps reduce cavities by 25% for people of all ages, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Everyone — even people with good access to dental care — benefits from community water fluoridation. It is an equitable approach to prevent cavities without regard to race, ethnicity, age or income because it is available to the entire community. It is particularly beneficial for people living in underserved communities who often face barriers to obtaining routine and preventive oral health care.
“Cavities are preventable, but they remain one of the most widespread diseases, second only to the common cold,” said Marcy Bowers, Statewide Poverty Action Network executive director. “But unlike a case of the sniffles, poor oral health can have lasting effects, impacting overall health, school attendance, job prospects, self-esteem and how others relate to you. Water fluoridation provides added protection across the population, helping to reduce health disparities.”
Water fluoridation also has been shown to save money for families, employers, the health care system, and state and federal governments. An economic analysis found that fluoridation provides nearly $6.5 billion a year in net cost savings in the US by avoiding dental care related to fillings, crowns and extractions and indirect costs related to lost productivity and follow-up treatments.
Learn more about the benefits of water fluoridation at www.cdc.gov/fluoridation.
Cecilia Nguyen Sorci
Pacific Public Affairs
About Arcora Foundation
Arcora Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to improving oral health and health equity by partnering with communities to prevent oral disease, transform health systems, and increase access to care. Funded by nonprofit Delta Dental of Washington, the state’s largest dental benefits company, Arcora Foundation works toward a shared vision: All people enjoy good oral and overall health, with no one left behind. For more information, visit ArcoraFoundation.org.