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Fluoride is one of the most effective ways of preventing tooth decay. Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in almost all foods and water supplies such as rivers, lakes, wells, and even the oceans. Fluorine is the world’s 13th most abundant element and constitutes 0.08% of the Earth’s crust (Awofeso an Peckham 2014). After teeth erupt, fluoride helps remineralize weakened tooth enamel and reverses early signs of dental caries. More than 70 years of scientific research has consistently shown that an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective in preventing tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults (ADA). Water fluoridation reaches everyone in the community and has a wide array of benefits. Water fluoridation is also very inexpensive and effective.
Community water fluoridation is like drinking milk fortified with Vitamin D or eating bread and cereals enriched with folic acid. Before water fluoridation, children had about three times as many cavities. Because of the important role it has played in the reduction of tooth decay, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation one of ten great public health achievements of the 20th century (ADA). Today, almost 75 percent of the U.S. population is served by fluoridated community water systems.
Researchers have shown that there are several ways through which fluoride achieves its decay-preventive effects. It makes the tooth structure stronger, so teeth are more resistant to acid attacks. Acid is formed when the bacteria in plaque break down sugars and carbohydrates from the diet. Multiple acid attacks tear away at the tooth, causing caries.
Fluoride is necessary for ideal oral heath for all age groups. Fluoride also works in repairing areas where acid attacks have already begun. The remineralization effect of fluoride is important because it reverses the early decay process as well as creating a tooth surface that is more resistant to decay. The most effective way to treat a community with fluoride is through water fluoridation. The protection of fluoridation reaches individuals at their homes, at work, and at school simply by drinking the water. Water fluoridation is backed by organizers such as the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization.
Fluoride levels in community water are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to protect public health. Fluoride levels that are too high in the water supplies may cause health problems which is why the EPA set the water fluoridation standard. The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed by Congress in 1974. EPA is required by law to evaluate the level of contaminants at which drinking water will be safe and will not cause adverse health effects.
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