Community water fluoridation is the adjustment of fluoride in drinking water to reach a level that can help to reduce tooth decay.
Along with a combination of a healthy diet, good oral hygiene, use of fluoride toothpaste and regular dental check-ups, water fluoridation is an effective strategy to prevent tooth decay.
Tooth decay is costly to individuals and the health system. It can cause pain, difficulty eating and sleeping and can make people feel unhappy about their appearance. Over 90% of adults in Australia have experienced decay at some point in their lives. In Queensland, over half of children aged 5-14 years who attended Queensland Health oral health services have experienced decay.
A large body of research shows that water fluoridation helps to prevent tooth decay by protecting against damage and helping with the repair of teeth.
Fluoride was first added to the water supply in Australia in the 1950’s. More than 150 major health organisations including the World Health Organisation, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), and the Australian Dental Association (ADA) support water fluoridation.
How fluoride works
Fluoride combats tooth decay in three ways: it helps make teeth more decay resistant, helps get rid of early decay before it becomes permanent and helps stop bacteria in the mouth producing acids, which leads to tooth decay.
Tooth decay is caused by acid build-up from sugars and bacteria, which attack the outer surface of the tooth. Teeth need small amounts of fluoride throughout the day for the whole of their life to help prevent tooth decay. Once you stop drinking fluoridated water, your teeth stop being protected from this source. The continual protection of fluoridated water is one of the reasons it is much more effective at reducing tooth decay than fluoride tablets or drops.
Fluoride fights decay in three ways
If you live in an area without access to fluoridated water, speak with your dental practitioner about additional ways you can protect your teeth against decay.