Government cites effectiveness in preventing tooth decay

Jan 3, 2011Back to Articles

Washington—The Association commended new government recommendations Jan. 7 on fluoride in drinking water and said the ADA will continue advocating for community water fluoridation at the proposed levels.

"This is a superb example of a government agency fulfilling its mission to protect and enhance the health of the American people," said Dr. Raymond F. Gist, president of the American Dental Association. "We have always looked to the federal health agencies to guide us on this and other public health matters, and we will continue to do so.

"We applaud the Department of Health and Human Services for reaffirming the safety and efficacy of optimal community water fluoridation, with science on their side," the Association president said.

"Dentistry has succeeded in preventing disease better than any other area of health care," said Dr. Gist. "Water fluoridation is one of our most potent weapons in disease prevention, and we want as many people as possible to have the benefits of this simple, safe, inexpensive and proven health care measure.

"The ADA has long advocated for all Americans to have the best possible oral health. The recommended level has been set at the lower optimal limit, but the health benefits of fluoridation remain. The only real, known health risk is the dramatic increased levels of disease that are likely to afflict people without access to optimally fluoridated water." Learn more about the health benefits and safety of optimally fluoridated water from the ADA.

Federal agencies in joint announcements proposed a change in the recommended level of fluoride in drinking water. The HHS department proposed setting the level at the lowest end of the current optimal range to prevent tooth decay. The Environmental Protection Agency is initiating review of the maximum amount of naturally-occurring fluoride allowed in drinking water under current regulations.

"Today's announcement is part of our ongoing support of appropriate fluoridation for community water systems and its effectiveness in preventing tooth decay throughout one's lifetime," HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, M.D., said in a statement posted at

These are science based decisions, Dr. Koh told Association volunteer leaders and senior staff in a briefing before the public announcement.

"We view this as a continued affirmation of fluoridation as a public health advance, and we view this as a way of updating recommendations based on the best available science provided in this case by the EPA and other top scientists in the federal family," the HHS health official said.

"So we want to continue to send a message that fluoridation is critical for oral health. It is a major public health achievement, and community water fluoridation should proceed according to the best science possible, and that's going to be our message."

The proposal to recalibrate the ratio of fluoride to drinking water to a specific point at the lower end of the current recommended range is based on an increase in dental fluorosis over the last 20 years, said Dr. William G. Kohn, director of the division of oral health at the HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"This is not about safety within a narrow range at all," said Dr. Kohn. "In this whole documentation you see that. Even at our current range, we don't feel that there is a safety issue here. It's just that based on the current science we don't need a range anymore." More information is available at CDC fluoridation.

The federal government is not recommending that communities stop adding fluoride to drinking water, the Association said in communications with state and local dental leaders. "Rather, it has recalibrated its recommendation for what it considers an effective level of fluoride to reduce the incidence of tooth decay while minimizing the rate of fluorosis in the general population, which has been slowly increasing," the Association said.

By Craig Palmer

Source: American Dental Association