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A new study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Adelaide, Australia has produced the strongest evidence yet that fluoride in drinking water provides dental health benefits to adults, even those who had not received fluoridated drinking water as children. The study was conducted between 2004 and 2006 among random samples of the Australian adult population. Participants reported where they have lived since 1964. Researchers used this data to determine for what percentage of life each person lived in a community with fluoridated public water. The study found that those who spent more than 75 percent of their life living in an area with fluoridated public water enjoyed significantly (30 percent) less tooth decay than those who spent less than 25 percent of their lives in such areas.

The findings of this study are significant for public health in countries with systems for fluoridating public water because it indicates that there are many more people who stand to benefit from fluoridated water than previously thought. It was once believed that fluoridation would only benefit children who consumed the fluoride from early childhood and that any later introduction of fluoride had no effect on dental well-being. For this reason, only children would receive fluoride foam treatments when they went to the dentist. We all probably remember that time: you picked your flavor, held the tray in your mouth, and tried not to swallow while the dentist left the room for an inconceivably long time. Then you could not eat or drink for a half hour afterward. With this new study showing the benefits of fluoridation for adults too, it may be likely that the flavored foam won’t stop with childhood.

Too much of anything, no matter how good, can be bad for you. For this reason there are those who oppose fluoridated public water. Nowadays fluoride can be obtained from food and beverage products processed with fluoridated water, aforementioned dental products, deboned meat, and pesticide residues on produce. Chances are, you may be getting your fluoride from sources besides public water. Fluoride is good for you in moderate amounts and has been proven to have benefits for dental health. To find out how much (if any) fluoride is in your water, contact the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/faqs/.