DAPHNE, Ala.—Daphne is one of 73 Alabama public water systems that are recipients of a Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fluoridation—the process of adjusting fluoride levels in water—involves fluoride, a mineral that contains the element fluorine, and is helpful with preventing and fighting tooth decay, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Fluoride is measured in water in parts per million. Sometimes, fluoride is naturally present in water, at or near .7 ppm. Fluoride levels should be around .7 ppm to 1.2 ppm to prevent tooth decay, according to experts. Daphne’s water system stayed at an average of 1 ppm for the calendar year 2007.
“Precise amounts of fluoride are added to the water supply through special equipment at an average cost of $1 per person per year,” Shellie Foster-Lyles, senior environmentalist for the Bureau of Family Health Services, said. Each dollar invested in fluoridation saves about $38 in dental treatment costs per person, according to the bureau.
“Studies have shown that as much as 60 percent of tooth decay can be prevented by adjusting fluoride to the optimal level,” Foster-Lyles said.
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by enhancing the tooth remineralization process. When a cavity begins to form, tooth enamel is weakened by acids formed in the mouth; fluoride strengthens teeth surfaces and makes them more resistant to decay.
“Fluoride in the water definitely decreases the number and severity of cavities,” Dr. Todd Chambliss, of Daphne Pediatric Dentistry, said. “The cavities will also be smaller if they do appear. Sometimes, if children have well water, you can see the difference.”
“We put fluoride in the water and (the Alabama Department of Public Health) monitors it for us,” Danny Lyndall, Daphne Utilities operations manager, said.
Fluoridation water testing is an ongoing process. Water samples are treated by the local system daily, and monthly by the Alabama Department of Public Health’s state laboratory, and are then entered into the CDC’s Water Fluoridation Reporting System database, according to Foster-Lyles.
“The CDC initiated the Water Fluoridation Quality Award in 2002 to recognize outstanding performances by water systems throughout the U.S.,” Foster-Lyles said. “They provide the certificates to state health departments who then forward the certificates to the appropriate water systems.”
The department hopes to provide an award ceremony next year for water systems that qualified during the calendar year 2008, according to Foster-Lyles. “These systems certainly deserve additional recognition for their outstanding accomplishments,” she said.
More than 184 million people—69.2 percent of the U.S. population that receives its water from a public system—currently drink water with an optimal fluoride level, according to the CDC.
“Our latest national and state fluoridation statistics show us that we have made significant progress towards our national objective of reaching 75 percent of U.S. residents,” Dr. William R. Mass, DDS, MPH, director of the CDC Division of Oral Health, said in a statement. “This is largely due to the efforts of the states and communities who are receiving these quality awards for fluoridation.”
The number of water systems in Alabama that have received this honor has grown from four in 2005, to 53 in 2006 to 73 in 2007, according to a news release.
Other systems that won the award this year include the Fairhope, Bay Minette, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Montgomery water boards.
“We are very pleased to announce that Alabama water systems have shown marked increases in maintaining optimal fluoridation in the past three years,” Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said.
The CDC recognizes community water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century, along with: vaccination, motor vehicle safety, safer workplaces, control of infectious diseases, decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke, safer and healthier foods, healthier mothers and babies, family planning and recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard.
“We are honored to receive this award as recognition of our continued commitment to providing the highest quality utility services to our customers,” Lyndall said.
This is the second time Daphne’s water fluoridation has been recognized. Daphne Utilities Board also received the award last year for maintaining optimal fluoridation levels for 12 consecutive months during the calendar year 2006, according to Foster-Lyles.