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Keywords:

  • water fluoridation;
  • fluoridation statistics;
  • diffusion and dilution effects of fluoridation;
  • preeruptive and posteruptive effects of fluoridation;
  • fluorosis;
  • future of water fluoridation

Abstract

Grand Rapids, the first city in the world to implement controlled water fluoridation, has served as a model for thousands of other communities. Fluoridation is one of the greatest public health and disease-preventive measures of all time. Its advantages include effectiveness for all, ease of delivery, safety, equity, and low cost. Today, nearly 56 percent of the US population lives in fluoridated communities (62% of those on central water supplies). Previously observed caries reductions of one-half to two-thirds are no longer attainable in the United States because other fluoride methods and products have reduced the caries prevalence in all areas, thus diluting the measurement of effectiveness, and because benefits of fluoridation are dispersed in many ways to persons in nonfluoridated areas. Water fluoridation itself, however, remains as effective as it ever was among groups at high risk to dental caries. Contrary to early beliefs that stressed the importance of preeruptive fluoride exposure, fluoridation also provides an important source of topical fluoride and facilitates remineralization. Although data on effectiveness and safety are compelling, future progress of water fluoridation will be affected by economic, political, and public perception factors.