Water Fluoridation Can Improve Dental, Oral Health
A new health care coalition, PAFluorideNOW, cited strong public support in urging the General Assembly to pass House Bill 1649, which would require water systems with 500 or more connections to adjust the levels of naturally occurring fluoride to prevent tooth decay in Pennsylvania residents.
Currently, only about half of Pennsylvania's population is served by water systems with the optimal level of fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Sixty years of scientific study has shown fluoride prevents cavities, is safe to consume and helps control health care costs by reducing needed dental work.
"The time is now for all Pennsylvanians to receive the health benefits and disease protection that fluoride gives," said Dr. Thomas W. Gamba, President of the Pennsylvania Dental Association. "The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized fluoride as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Pennsylvanians in the 21st century should not have to wait any longer for this important health benefit."
PAFluorideNOW represents nearly 250 health foundations, health organizations and individuals who support fluoridated water as a method for improving the overall health of the citizens of Pennsylvania.
"Good oral health is the key to good overall health for individuals, especially children," said Russell Johnson, President and CEO of the North Penn Community Health Foundation.
"A child experiencing mouth pain cannot focus in school, eat the proper food or get the right amount of sleep. Infections in the mouth of both children and adults can affect other systems in the body. People with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension can have these conditions made worse by infections in the mouth," Johnson added.
Early studies of fluoride showed water fluoridation reduced the amount of cavities children get in baby teeth by up to 60 percent and reduced tooth decay in permanent adult teeth by nearly 35 percent. Today, studies prove that water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing tooth decay by 20 to 40 percent, even in an era with widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.
Optimizing the amount of fluoride in public drinking water is not expensive, and a study shows doing so actually saves a good deal of money. The average cost for a community to fluoridate its water is estimated to range from 50 cents a year per person in large communities to $3 a year per person in small communities. The Surgeon General in 2004 said an economic analysis determined that every $1 invested in fluoridation saves $38 in treatment costs.
"This is an easy way to help control health care costs, while also providing a proven community health benefit," said Rep. Stephen Barrar, Delaware County, sponsor of HB 1649. "This also helps taxpayers, who pick up the tab for the health care of low income people."
A statewide poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research shows Pennsylvanians, by a margin of 65 to 27 percent, support optimal fluoride levels in public drinking water to help prevent tooth decay. 73 percent say they would pay $3 a year to help reduce tooth decay in children and cut health care costs.