Nearly 70 percent of U.S. residents who get water from community water systems now receive fluoridated water, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The proportion of the U.S. population receiving fluoridated water, about 184 million people, increased from 65.8 percent in 1992 to 69.2 percent in 2006, said the study in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports.
"Community water fluoridation is an equitable, cost-effective, and cost-saving method of delivering fluoride to most people," said Dr. William Maas, director of CDC's Division of Oral Health. "We've seen some marked improvements; however, there are still too many states that have not met the national goal. The national goal is that 75 percent of U.S. residents who are on community water systems be receiving fluoridated water by 2010."
Fluoride, a naturally occurring compound in the environment, can reduce or prevent tooth decay. Adding or maintaining tiny levels of fluoride in drinking water is a safe and effective public health measure to prevent and control tooth decay (dental caries). The second half of the 20th century saw a major decline in the prevalence and severity of dental caries, attributed in part to the increasing use of fluoride. Based upon studies and a systematic review, the U.S. Task Force on Community Preventive Services reported that fluoridation resulted in a median 29.1 percent relative decrease in tooth decay.
The report, "Populations Receiving Optimally Fluoridated Public Drinking Water- United States 1992-2006," provides the most recent information on the status of fluoridated water by state. The report says the percentage of people served by community water systems with optimal levels (which are defined by the state and vary based on such things as the climate) of fluoridated water ranged from 8.4 percent in Hawaii to 100 percent in the District of Columbia. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have met or exceeded national objectives, while 25 states need improvements. Three states (Colorado, Delaware and Nebraska) that previously reached the national objective dropped below the target by 2006.
During 1998-2006, CDC developed the Water Fluoridation Reporting System (WFRS), a Web-based method to support management of state fluoridation programs and to collect these data. The state has administrative oversight on water fluoridation and CDC relies on state dental or drinking water programs to provide fluoridation data, including populations served, fluoridation status, fluoride concentration, and fluoride source for individual community water systems.
For more information on fluoridation and oral health, please visit www.cdc.gov/oralhealth.