Due to headlines about contaminates in water—whether it be lead or other pollutants—North Texans have become hyper aware (and concerned) about the quality of our tap water.
While localities do everything to ensure there are no dangerous contaminates coming out of the tap, there are some additives that have been proven to be beneficial for public health.
For example, fluoride has been proven to improve oral health by strengthening the teeth and helping prevent cavities. There are still myths, however, about fluoride and its benefits.
Our goal is to dispel the myths surrounding fluoride and provide insight into how Texas, and particularly the DFW area, fluorinates our water.
Is fluoride dangerous?
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring chemical ion found in rocks, soil, and water. However, it does not exist on its own in nature. To harness its benefits, it must be created though a scientific process.
Harnessing the fluoride ion was a mayor scientific achievement at the end of the 19th century, and its benefit so widespread that it was added to water and toothpaste in the middle of the 20th century. Fluoride protects your teeth by making them stronger and more resident to the bacteria that feed on their outer surfaces (thereby causing decay). And thanks to fluoride in toothpaste and the water supply today, there has been a significant decline in cavities.
Why was fluoride added to the water supply?
For more than 70 years, people around the country have benefited from drinking water with fluoride, measurably leading to better dental health. Drinking fluoridated water keeps teeth strong and reduces cavities by about 25% in children and adults alike.
By preventing cavities, community water fluoridation has been shown to save money for families and for the U.S. as a whole in related healthcare costs. Because of its contribution to the large decline in cavities in the United States since the 1960s, the CDC even named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
In the 1930s, scientists were examining the relationship between tooth decay in children and naturally-occurring fluoride in drinking water. The study found that children who drank water with naturally high levels of fluoride had less tooth decay.
After much research, in 1945 the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was the first to add fluoride to its city water system in order to provide residents with the health benefits of fluoride. This process of testing the water supply for fluoride and adjusting it to the right amount to prevent cavities is called community water fluoridation.
Fluoride in North Texas’ water
The Texas Fluoridation Program (TFP) works to improve the health of Texans by preventing tooth decay through community water fluoridation. To check to see if the water in your area is fluorinated, check out the CDC website here. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends a level of 0.7 milligrams per Liter (mg/L) of fluoride in your drinking water. This is the level that prevents tooth decay and promotes better oral health.
Alternative fluoride sources
If, after research, you determine that your water is not fluorinated, or if you choose to drink bottled water instead, there are other ways to ensure you can reap the health benefits of fluoride.
First, choose a toothpaste that includes fluoride for you and your children. And then, when you visit your dentist for you biannual visit, make sure to ask about the availably of fluoride treatments. Fluoride treatments are beneficial at any age—and even more so as you reach your golden years. Make sure to discuss the benefits of fluoride with us at your next appointment!