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The state Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced that Connecticut residents will continue to receive the public health benefits of community water fluoridation, thanks to a new law signed by Governor Dannel Malloy earlier this week that will keep Connecticut’s fluoridation levels in line with federal recommendations on the optimal fluoride level for preventing tooth decay. The Department of Public Health’s Drinking Water Section and Office of Oral Health heralded the bill’s passage and signing, coming during National Drinking Water Week.

"Seventy years ago, nearly everyone in the United States had tooth decay. At that time, no one knew how to prevent it," said Lori Mathieu, Chief of the DPH Drinking Water Section. "Connecticut became and is still one of only two states in the country to adopt federal water fluoridation standards that were first put into law in 1962. Since that time, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in tooth decay. We are very grateful to the Legislature and Governor Malloy for passing this law that will keep Connecticut at the forefront of addressing this preventable disease."

Dental caries, or tooth decay, is an infectious, communicable, bacterial disease that affects both children and adults, yet is almost always preventable. Untreated cavities can cause severe pain, infection, tooth loss, problems sleeping and gaining employment, inability to chew or speak clearly, and can be deadly, as was the case in the 2007 death of a young Maryland boy due to a dental infection that spread to his brain.

Fluoridation began in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945 and became the foundation of making tooth decay, for the first time in history, a preventable disease for most people. There are now multiple sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste, mouthwash, professional fluoride treatments, as well as consuming products made with fluoridated water. In April 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) determined that community water fluoridation remains an effective public health strategy beyond that provided by other fluoride products. Taking the additional sources of fluoride into consideration, HHS issued a new recommendation, eliminating the original1962 recommended range for fluoridation levels, and replacing it with one level, the lowest level in the old range, for the optimal concentration of fluoride in drinking water that provides the best balance of protection from dental caries. The bill signed into law this week by Governor Malloy updates Connecticut’s fluoridation law to reflect the new standard.

According to DPH, fluoridation is a proven, safe, and effective way to prevent decay. Community water fluoridation is one of the most practical, cost-effective, equitable and safe measures to ensure all members of the community have access to fluoride regardless of age, education, income or access to routine dental care. Because Community Water Fluoridation has resulted in a dramatic decline in the prevalence and severity of tooth decay, it has been named as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Community water fluoridation remains a necessary building block in the prevention of an almost entirely preventable disease.

To learn more about the importance of oral health, visit http://www.ct.gov/dph/cwp/view.asp?a=3125&q=388844 or call (860) 509-8251.