According to the American Dental Association, in 1945, Grand Rapids, Mich., became the first city in the world to adjust the amount of fluoride in its drinking water supply. The ADA believes that ever since, fluoride has been reducing rates of tooth decay across the country. The association states that by simply drinking fluoridated tap water, both children and adults can help reduce their risk of experiencing cavities and other dental health problems. However, not everyone has felt the same way.
Some people believe that fluoride is not effective and should be removed from drinking water, so researchers have been working to determine which position on fluoride is correct. It's important for communities to make informed decisions regarding fluoridating their water supply. Recently, a study conducted by scientists from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Adelaide, Australia found that drinking fluoride in tap water may have benefits for the dental health of adults, even if they did not have access to it as a child.
Preventing oral issues
To come to their conclusions, researchers analyzed national survey data from more than 3,700 adults selected at random from the Australian population between 2004 and 2006. They measured the level of tooth decay present in these adults, and asked where they have lived since 1964. The scientists then matched the information regarding where study participants had lived to records regarding the fluoride levels present in the water supplies of these communities at the time.
The researchers discovered that adults who spent more than 75 percent of their lives living in fluoridated communities had 30 percent less tooth decay than those who had only spent less than 25 percent of their lives around fluoridated water. This shows that even if adults did not drink fluoridated water when they were children, they still experienced dental health benefits if they spent the majority of their lives around it.
"It was once thought that fluoridated drinking water only benefited children who consumed it from birth," explained UNC School of Dentistry faculty member Gary Slade, who is director of the oral epidemiology Ph.D. program at UNC, in a statement. "Now we show that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in adults, even if they start drinking it after childhood. In public health terms, it means that more people benefit from water fluoridation than previously thought."
Researcher Kaye Roberts-Thomson, a co-author of the study, added that these findings are particularly important considering that several Australian cities are still mulling over whether to fluoridate their water. According to the researcher, this study shows that fluoride really does have significant health benefits.
ADA supports fluoride
The ADA states that it endorses community water fluoridation as a safe and effective way to reduce tooth decay. An estimated 100 million Americans do not have access to dental insurance, which is why it's important for there to be affordable ways for these individuals to improve the health of their teeth, such as by consuming the fluoride in drinking water.
Furthermore, many dental health professionals recommend that people brush their teeth using a toothpaste that contains fluoride to further help people keep tooth decay at bay. While some individuals may believe that all toothpastes contain this ingredient, they would be wrong, which is why people who want to use one that contains fluoride should be sure to read the ingredients list on the package to see if fluoride is listed.
The association added that studies conducted throughout the past 65 years have consistently shown that there are many benefits of water fluoridation, and this latest research can now be added to the list.
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