The case for water fluoridation in Oregon

The case for water fluoridation in OregonPercentage of US Population Receiving Fluoridated Water - 2000
A briefing paper prepared by the Oregon Dental Association

For more information
William E. Zepp, CAE, Executive Director, 503-218-2010, Ext. 110
Christina Swartz, Managing Director of Public and Professional Education, 503-218-2010, Ext. 105


This paper reviews the benefits of legislation that would require Oregon communities of more than 10,000 people to add optimal amounts of fluoride to water supplies. Despite 60 years of research that proves the safety and effectiveness of fluoridation in preventing cavities, only about 20 percent of Oregonians drink fluoridated water.  The result is a devastating effect on the health of our state's most vulnerable populations. Research shows that each dollar invested in fluoridation saves $38 in dental care costs.

Why is fluoridation necessary?

In his report, Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, David Satcher, MD, PhD noted that tooth decay is the single most common chronic childhood disease—five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Dr. Satcher’s report characterizes dental disease as a “silent epidemic” and there is ample evidence that Oregon suffers from its share of this problem. For example, in Smiles Survey 2002, the Oregon Department of Human Services found:

  • More than 50 percent of Oregon’s children suffer from dental decay and 25 percent have decay that has not been treated;
  • Children who qualify for free and reduced-price meal programs in school have substantially higher rates of decay and are more likely not to be treated;
  • Decay is more common among children of color and among children in non-English speaking households.

Fluoride reduces tooth decay in two important ways. When ingested, it is incorporated into the enamel of developing teeth before they erupt, making them more resistant to decay. After teeth erupt, topical fluoride continues to strengthen tooth structure to prevent decay and promote the remineralization of enamel. Decay occurring along the gum line and on root surfaces, usually seen in older patients, is also decreased by fluoride use.

Fluoridation is considered beneficial by the overwhelming majority of health and scientific communities, including the American Dental Association, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly 100 national and international organizations endorse community water fluoridation,and every U.S. Surgeon General since 1950 has endorsed fluoridation.  After 60 years of research and experience, the vast weight of scientific evidence shows that fluoridation is safe and effective.

Since its introduction in 1945, fluoridation has grown to protect more than 360 million people in approximately 60 countries worldwide. More than 10,000 communities and 145 million people in the United States drink fluoridated water every day.

Fluoridation is a community health measure that protects all children and adults, regardless of income, education, or ethnicity—not just those with access to dental care. Research shows that each dollar spent on optimal water fluoridation returns $38 in dental care savings.