For years, oral health experts have touted the benefits of fluoride to obtain, maintain, and improve the health of one’s teeth. This March, a study from the University of North Carolina confirmed the idea.
With nearly 4,000 participants, the study examined people who lived 75 percent of their lives in communities with fluoridated water supplies. It then compared their oral health history to those who lived in areas without the treated water. The results show as much as a 30 percent dip in tooth decay for those living in communities that treated their water.
Gary Slade, director of the oral epidemiology PhD program at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Dentistry, published the results recently in the online Journal of Dental Research.
Fluoridated water supplies are nothing new. For more than 60 years, communities throughout America have offered public water that’s been infused with fluoride. Many other communities however, have rejected the infusion because they argued it might cause cancer or other harmful health threats. In 2011, that notion was put to bed when the National Cancer Institute initiated a study that found no such link between fluoride-treated water and cancer.
Slade did admit, however, that fluoride does offer a potential side effect: the staining of teeth. The likelihood of this happening largely depends on the ratio of fluoride in the water supply.
Still, a slight staining is much easier to deal with than massive tooth decay. Because it’s fairly inexpensive to pump fluoride into local water supplies, it seems as if every community should take part. When you consider the high medical costs associated with treating tooth decay, the decision to infuse the water is even easier to make.
The last hurdle Americans now have to face is the perceived benefit of drinking bottled water over tap water. Bottled water doesn’t contain the fluoride. Plus, it costs more, and discarded plastic bottles are becoming an increasing concern when it comes to environmental issues. Getting America back to drinking tap water may help in more way than one.