June 6th, 2018

On behalf of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are pleased to provide a statement on the evidence regarding the safety and benefits of community water fluoridation. For the record, this statement is not testimony for or against any specific legislative proposal.

Good oral health is an important part of good overall health and an essential part of our everyday lives. Diet, sleep, psychological status, social interaction, school, and work are all affected by impaired oral health. Over the past several decades, there have been major improvements in the nation’s oral health that have benefitted most Americans.1

However, profound disparities in oral health status remain for some population subgroups, such as the poor, the elderly, and many members of racial and ethnic minority groups.1 Tooth decay is one of the most common chronic diseases among American children with 1 of 4 children living below the federal poverty level experiencing untreated tooth decay.2 Untreated decay can cause pain, school absences, difficulty concentrating, and poor appearance—all contributing to decreased quality of life and ability to succeed.3

Tooth decay and its complications are preventable, and several preventive and early treatment options are safe, effective, and economical. The CDC leads national efforts to improve oral health by using proven strategies such as community water fluoridation and school-based dental sealant programs that prevent oral diseases.

An Effective Intervention

Community water fluoridation is “the controlled addition of a fluoride compound to a public water supply to achieve a concentration optimal for dental caries prevention.”1 The process of adding fluoride to public water systems in the United States began in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Soon after, dramatic declines in dental caries were noted among school children in Grand Rapids compared with school children from surrounding areas. Since then, community water fluoridation has been adopted by communities across the country, providing the cornerstone of caries prevention in the United States.1 In 2012, more than 210 million people, or 74.6% of the U.S. population served by public water supplies, drank water with optimal fluoride levels to prevent tooth decay.4