Community water fluoridation is a safe and effective way to prevent tooth decay. For nearly 70 years, community water fluoridation has played a major role in improving the public’s oral health. Because it helps prevent tooth decay in children and adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. Today, studies prove water fluoridation continues to be effective in reducing dental decay by at least 25 percent in children and adults, even in the of era widespread availability of fluoride from other sources, such as fluoride toothpaste.

What is community water fluoridation? Fluoridation of community water supplies is simply the adjustment of the existing, naturally occurring fluoride in drinking water to an optimal level for the prevention of tooth decay. Think of it this way: Water that has been fortified with fluoride is similar to fortifying milk with Vitamin D, table salt with iodine, and bread and cereals with folic acid. Simply by drinking water, children and adults can benefit from fluoridation's cavity protection whether they are at home, work or school.

Over the years, many U.S. Surgeons General have made statements supporting fluoridation. Former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop stated that fluoridation is the single most important commitment that a community can make to the oral health of its citizens. In 2013, former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin stated that “I believe it is better to prevent illness and disease rather than treat it after it occurs… Fluoridation’s effectiveness in preventing tooth decay is not limited to children, but extends throughout life, resulting in fewer and less severe cavities. In fact, each generation born since the implementation of water fluoridation has enjoyed better dental health than the generation that preceded it.
But, water fluoridation contributes much more to overall health than simply preventing tooth decay. It prevents needless infection, pain, suffering and loss of teeth. One study has shown that children who live in communities without fluoridation are three times more likely to end up in the hospital to undergo dental surgery. Fluoridation improves the quality of life and saves vast sums of money in dental treatment costs. In today’s economy, that’s more important than ever before. When it comes to the cost of treating dental disease, everyone pays. Not just those who need treatment, but the entire community – through higher health insurance premiums and higher taxes. On an individual basis, the lifetime cost of fluoridation is typically less than the cost of one dental filling.

Fluoridation of community water supplies is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay. It’s no wonder that the number of communities who make the choice to fluoridate their water continues to grow. From 2000-2013, more than 425 U.S. communities in 42 states have voted to adopt or retain successful fluoridation programs. The latest data show that in 2012, 74.6% of the U.S. population on public water systems, or a total of 210.7 million people, had access to optimally fluoridated water. The Healthy People 2020 Objective is to reach 79.6%. The ADA, along with state and local dental societies, continues to work with federal, state and local agencies to increase the number of communities benefiting from water fluoridation.

With policy based on the best available science, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American Dental Association, American Public Health Association and the World Health Association continue to endorse fluoridation. Additionally, more than 125 national and international health, service and professional organizations recognize the public health benefits of community water fluoridation for preventing dental decay.

If you have specific questions about your family’s fluoride needs, please contact your family dentist, pediatrician or physician.

For additional information on fluoridation visit:

American Dental Association's Fluoridation Facts: An encyclopedia of fluoridation information in question and answer format. 

Compendium: List of organizations that recognize the public health benefits of fluoridation.

Fluoride and Fluoridation Website: General information on fluoridation. 

CDC Community Water Fluoridation: Gateway to CDC fluoridation information. 

My Water’s Fluoride: Learn if your public water system is fluoridated.