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What is water fluoridation?

Water fluoridation is a process of adding fluoride to public water supply for the purpose of protecting the population’s dental health. In fluoridated water, the levels of fluoride are sufficient enough to prevent dental issues such as caries. There are also water sources that provide water with too much fluoride in it, and the process for removing the excess fluoride is called defluoridation. Fluoridation, using fluoride compounds, costs less than one dollar per person-year in the United States.

The current recommendation of the World Health Organization regarding the mount of fluoride in the water is 0.5 to 1.0 mg/L. In order to achieve those levels, it is necessary to test municipal water supplies as well as natural supplies and to add or remove fluoride from it. It is not clear how much fluoride there is in bottled water. It is also important to remember that many types of water filters used for tap water remove fluoride from it.

Importance of water fluoridation

Fluoridated water works on the surface of the teeth. Fluoride levels in the saliva reduce the rate at which the tooth enamel demineralizes and increases the remineralization rate. That way the enamel stays strong and less prone to damage and cavities.

Dental caries is one of the major health concerns in most industrialized countries, especially among children. Fluoridation of the water is, along with fluoride toothpaste, one of the best ways to prevent tooth decay, caries and other issues. In fact, the effect of water fluoridation has been so positive that the Center for Disease Control in the United States has listed it among ten greatest achievements in the 20th century when it comes to public health.

Water fluoridation has been a predominately American practice, but more and more countries, especially some of the European ones, have started adding fluoride to public water supplies as well.

One negative effect of water fluoridation is that, if the levels of fluoride in the water are combined with fluoride from supplements and from toothpaste, they may lead to dental fluorosis, a condition in which fluoride causes dark stains on teeth.

How is it done?

Water fluoridation, which does not alter in any way the appearance or the taste of the water, is done by adding one of three fluoride compounds to the drinking water supply- sodium fluoride, fluorosilicic acid or sodium fluorosilicate. Sodium fluoride was the first compound to be used for the purpose of water fluoridation. It comes in form of powder or crystal. Fluorosilicic acid is in liquid form, which may make the shipping more expensive, and sodium fluorosilicate is in crystalline form.

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