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The benefits of fluoridated water

Posted 11/30/2012   Updated 12/18/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Harris
36th Medical Operations Support Squadron


11/30/2012 - ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam  -- For decades, fluoride has been added to public drinking water in an effort to reduce cavities. In fact, the addition of fluoride to public drinking water was named one of the top ten most significant public health advancements of the 20th Century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, some still question the merits of this act and protest the idea of fluoridated water.

It is true that at higher concentrations, fluoride is considered to be a health hazard and an environmental pollutant. At Andersen AFB, the concentration in the public water supply is monitored by the 36th Medical Group bio-environmental engineering flight and controlled to keep concentrations at a level that produces measurable health benefits, while being well below toxic levels.

The mechanism of how fluoride prevents cavities is that, during the demineralization phase, if a fluoride ion is available, it will be incorporated into the enamel during remineralization in the form of fluoroapatite. Fluoroapatite is more resistant to acid attacks and demineralization than the normal enamel hydroxyapatite.

Some studies have shown that childhood cavities can be reduced by approximately 60 percent in a community just through water fluoridation. Significant decreases in childhood cavities have been found with fluoride at an optimal concentration of 0.7 parts per million, meaning that out of a million parts of water, less than one part is fluoride.

Though the main beneficiaries of fluoridated water are children, it doesn't mean that someone whose teeth are fully developed will not benefit from drinking fluoridated water. Fluoride can re-mineralize tooth structure in adult teeth that has been weakened by acid. In adults however, fluoride can only penetrate the outermost layer of the enamel.

Additionally, fluoride inhibits bacteria from forming plaque and can kill bacteria in the mouth that causes cavities.

The water supply off-base in Guam is not fluoridated so if you live off-base, especially if you have children, check with your local dentist if fluoride supplements are available. If you live on-base and cook with tap water, brush your teeth or brew your coffee with tap water, you will get the benefits of fluoride.

From strengthening teeth enamel to preventing bacteria that causes cavities, there are many ways that fluoride in water benefits oral health for you and your family.



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