Free Community Water Fluoridation Essay Sample
Fluoride is a chemical element that occurs naturally and is found in rocks, plants, and almost in all fresh waters though at negligible levels. When fluoride percentages in water are at acceptable levels, tooth decay is reduced, hence this improves oral health. Water fluoridation involves adjusting the existing amounts of fluoride that occurs naturally in drinking water to a level recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service (0.7 – 1.2 parts per million). This recommended level helps in preventing tooth decay, which results in fewer tooth cavities. Community water fluoridation is the act of fluoridating community water sources in order to boost oral health in the community (Fejerskov & Kidd, 2008). The aim of this paper is to investigate community water fluoridation in the U.S. and its benefits to the community.
Community Water Fluoridation is a program that started in the 1940s in the U.S. Since the first program, the number of water community water fluoridation programs has steadily increased and the number of people served by the system has also gone up. Presently about two thirds of the U.S. population receives fluoridated water in their community systems. The system has been credited to the steady decrease of the number of tooth decay rates in the country. According to CDC, water fluoridation is one of the great public health achievements of the last century. Community residents are to enjoy the community’s water fluoridation programs that are meant to offer protective benefits by consuming foods as well as beverages that are prepared with the use of fluoridated water. Luckily, people with different income level are able to experience healthy benefits that accrue from the use of fluoridated water as the state funds and gives technical assistance through the Public Health Dental Program (CDC).
According to the Surgeon general statement on community water fluoridation, scientific evidence suggests that people living in communities that have fluoridated water have lesser cavities than those who live in communities with normal water. Thus, community water fluoridation has been identified as one of the best strategies that can be used to improve health of the community residents.
Importance of Water Fluoridation
Decay of tooth happens when acid attacks and destroys the enamel part of a tooth. Fluoride is able to reduce the amount of acid produced in the mouth, and also it is able to repair damaged tooth before it becomes permanent. This ability of fluoride has seen it used in many water treatment plants. Since water fluoridation reduces tooth decay significantly, this helps families and individuals save money on dental treatments like tooth fillings. This saved money can be channeled to other developmental projects, such as opening up investments, paying school fees, among others. It also means that reduction of tooth decay will lead to less time away from school by students due to dental treatment or tooth ache, hence improving education levels in the community (Fejerskov & Kidd, 2008).
Griffin, Jones and Tomar did a study in 2001 which compared per person averagely the cost incurred by community water fluoridation with the cost of preventing disease. The study demonstrated that water fluoridation was both cost saving and cost-effective. This analysis also indicated that the cost of fluoridation was much less as compared to the cost incurred in dental fillings in all sizes of communities. It was estimated that cost savings per person in a small community ranged from $15.95 annually to $18.62 in a large community (World Health Organization).
Thus, from economic perspective, improved oral health brings real economic benefits to the community. Water fluoridation reduces oral care expenditures, which involve considerable cost to society. Research that has been carried out during the past 65 years consistently shows that fluoridation of community water sources is effective and safe in preventing tooth decay in children as well as adults. Therefore, children and adults by simply drinking the treated water benefit from cavity protection at school, work, or even at home.
A most recent economic evaluation was conducted in the state of Colorado in 2003. It was concluded that then current community water fluoridation project in Colorado led to an annual saving of about US$148.9 million or an average of US$60.78 per individual (2003 dollars).This study stated further that with the implementation of 52 new fluoridation systems in areas that are currently without fluoridation would result in an additional annual saving of US$46.6 million (Fejerskov & Kidd, 2008).
The World Health Organization (WHO) views water fluoridation as the most economical, the safest and the most effective way of controlling and preventing tooth decay. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are in support on water fluoridation, stating that it is both equitable and safe to apply as the society benefits from it. The CDC ranks water treatment through fluoridation as one of the top ten greatest achievements in public health of the 20th century (World Health Organization).
In the views of the CDC and WHO, the underprivileged populations and the populations that are hard to be reached by conventional services to prevent diseases are likely to be the most beneficiaries of fluoridation services. Hence, the U.S government has invested much in community fluoridation as they see it as a public health undertaking that brings about reduction of inequalities in the society in terms of dental health. The WHO in a recent report has listed fluoride among the 14 mineral elements that are considered to be essential to human health due to its importance in oral health (CDC).
Risks Related to Water Fluoridation
Some debates have been conducted on whether fluoridation of water may increase the risks of being affected by other health problems like osteoporosis, cancer, and Down syndrome. The National Research council (NRC) did a review in 1993, which indicated that there was no tangible evidence to hold those claims. Currently the NRC is carrying out a review study on the evidence of 1993 in order to advise the U.S. government accordingly (National Academies Press). Thus, there is only one minor risk of water fluoridation: tooth fluorisis. Tooth fluorosis is caused by too much exposure to fluoride, which results in tooth coloration known as dental fluorosis. It occurs after much exposure to high levels of fluoride when tooth formation is taking place (Fejerskov & Kidd, 2008).
According to the research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Dental Association in 2001, “when used appropriately, fluoride is a safe and effective agent that can be used to prevent and control dental caries. Fluoride has contributed profoundly to the improved dental health of persons in the United States and other countries. Fluoride is needed regularly throughout life to protect teeth against tooth decay. To ensure additional gains in oral health, water fluoridation should be extended to additional communities, and fluoride toothpaste should be used widely” (Fluoridation of Public Water Supplies). Thus, community fluoridation programs would lead to improvement of dental and oral health with considerable savings in both public as well as private resources. However, it seems that still much ought to be done to cover the remaining population. And therefore, policymakers, leaders, health professionals, media, and all other stakeholders should join hands and affirm that oral health is essential. Everybody should take action and ensure that our communities are healthier, and the first on this way could be fluoridation of community waters so as to enhance an oral health for all Americans.