2020 is a big year. A big decade. Plus, it just sounds cool, right? In the world of dentistry, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of community water fluoridation in America.

And since February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at the history of water fluoridation, why it’s important and how it helps everyone have a healthier mouth.

A History Lesson

Listen, dental professionals. Don’t check out here and stop reading. I think you’ll like this history lesson. Maybe you already know some of it. But hang in there and I think you’ll learn something new.

In 1945, the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, became the first in the world to fluoridate its drinking water. Go, Michigan! And it turns out, those Grand Rapidians were right. The American Dental Association (ADA) to this day remains committed to fluoridation of public water supplies as the single most effective public health measure to help prevent tooth decay.

Why Water Fluoridation Matters

More than seven decades of scientific research has consistently shown that maintaining an optimal level of fluoride in community water is safe and effective and prevents tooth decay by at least 25% in both children and adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.

“Drinking fluoridated tap water supports my granddaughter’s health through proper hydration and by preventing cavities,” said Dr. Bonita D. Neighbors, a former member of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention who also served on the National Fluoridation Advisory Committee. “As a profession, let’s celebrate with our patients and our community one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century, community water fluoridation. As dentists, we know the important role of pediatric oral health on systemic health and disease prevention.”

Coupled with other healthy mouth tips like brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, regular dental checkups and eating a healthy diet that limits the sugary stuff, drinking fluoridated water can help you have a healthy smile for a lifetime.

Resources for Your Practice

Free posters — with English on the front, Spanish on the back — about National Children’s Dental Health Month, and specifically about water fluoridation, are available to order on the National Children’s Dental Health Month website, ADA.org/ncdhm. They can also be downloaded and printed in poster and flyer size.