Roughly three in four Americans who are served by public water systems receive tap water that is fluoridated to curb the risk of tooth decay. Unfortunately, millions of people live in rural or small communities that have not engaged in community water fluoridation (CWF). For small water systems, CWF tends to be more costly per capita and logistically more challenging. Those hurdles can be alleviated by a new tablet technology that is being promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by 25% over a lifetime, but smaller communities often lack the budgets and full-time water personnel to make CWF a realistic option. Now, the CDC reports that the new fluoride tablet system can address these hurdles and potentially extend CWF to nearly 32,000 small water systems in the United States, bringing fluoridated water to 19 million more people.
For more than 75 years, CWF has been used in the U.S. to strengthen tooth enamel — remineralizing the tooth structure so it is more resistant to the acid attacks that are generated when bacteria in the mouth feed on the remnants of sugar and other carbohydrates that we eat and drink.
Oral health advocates in rural areas will need to be prepared for the many claims and arguments that opponents make. But the good news is this new tablet technology means that the cost and operational logistics of CWF no longer present significant obstacles for a rural community. In fact, for many small communities this system offers the effective return on investment experienced by larger systems all over the country.
As the saying goes: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing dental disease before it starts is good for communities both large and small.