Surgeon General Celebrates 70 Years of Fluoridation

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Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy praised the efforts of community leaders who have introduced fluoride into their water systems over the past 70 years, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named it one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, along with immunizations and tobacco control.

“Water fluoridation is the best method for delivering fluoride to all members of the community regardless of age, education, income level, or access to routine dental care,” Murthy said in a video posted on the office’s website.

In 1945, the US National Institutes of Health launched a controlled experiment in fluoridating the water in Grand Rapids, Mich. By 1950, their results showed a significant reduction in cavities. The US Public Health Service made fluoridation official policy by 1951. And by 2012, 74.6% of the US population on public water systems (or 210,655,401 people) was receiving fluoride.

“Fluoride’s effectiveness in preventing tooth decay extends throughout one’s life, resulting in fewer and less severe cavities,” Murthy said. “In fact, each generation born over the past 70 years has enjoyed better dental health than the one before it. That is the very essence of the American promise.”

However, Murthy cautioned that there still are disparities in oral care.

“We still have work to do because we know that so much of our health is still determined by zip code, rather than genetic code,” he said. “That’s why creating a culture of disease prevention through community efforts and ensuring health equity for all is one of my highest priorities.”

The ADA commended Murthy for marking fluoridation’s anniversary. In a letter to the Surgeon General, president Carol Gomez Summerhays, DDS, and Kathleen T. O’Loughlin, DMD, MPH, addressed fluoridation’s success in preventing at least 25% of tooth decay in children and adults even with the widespread availability of fluoride from other sources.

“The preponderance of credible scientific evidence supports the continued safety and effectiveness of community water fluoridation,” the ADA officers wrote. “We are pleased to be working with you and others in the public health community to expand the practice.”

“Advocates and community leaders have fought for water fluoridation in communities throughout our country,” Murthy said. “Today, we applaud their efforts, and we will not rest until every community is equipped with the tools they need to help their residents live healthy and happy lives. Water fluoridation will be a critical part of that effort, and I look forward to working side by side with community leaders to make that goal a reality.”

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