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Fluoridation Information

two kids brushing their teeth
Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy

Fluoridation Information

What is fluoride and its benefits?

Fluoride is one of the most plentiful elements on Earth, and occurs naturally in both ground water and surface waters in Michigan. When fluoride is present in drinking water at optimal levels, it has been shown to promote oral health by preventing tooth decay. Water systems are considered naturally fluoridated when the natural level of fluoride is greater than 0.7 milligrams per liter (mg/L). When a water system adjusts the level of fluoride to 0.7 mg/L or greater it is referred to as water fluoridation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 66% of the U.S. residents who receive their water from community water systems, or 170 million people, have access to fluoridated water.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set both the maximum contaminant level (MCL) and the maximum contaminant level goal (MCLG) for fluoride to 4.0 mg/L. In addition, the secondary maximum contaminant level goal (SMCLG) of 2.0 mg/L has been set for fluoride to minimize potential dental fluorosis.

Fluoride is one of the world's most studied substances. Thousands of studies have been conducted over the past 60 years to establish and confirm fluoride's benefits.

Water fluoridation is recognized as a major public health achievement of the 20th century by the CDC.

Although, dental caries (tooth decay) is largely preventable, it remains the most common chronic disease of children aged 5 to 17 years. In the U.S., tooth decay effects:

  • 1 out of 4 elementary school children
  • 2 out of 3 adolescents
  • 9 out of 10 adults

Both children and adults benefit from water fluoridation. Studies have demonstrated that people in communities with fluoridated water have 20 to 40 percent less tooth decay than those in communities without fluoridated water.

Fluoride is inexpensive. It costs between $0.50 and $3.00 per capita per year to fluoridate a community's water supply. Every dollar spent on fluoridation saves $38 in dental restoration costs.

Fluoride management

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) both support water fluoridation and work together to promote it.

EGLE's Drinking Water and Environmental Health Division (DWEHD) provides technical and engineering expertise to water systems for permitting and operating fluoridation systems. DWEHD is the regulatory agency and is responsible for assuring that CWS's meet all applicable federal and state drinking water standards.

The MDHHS, Oral Health Program (OHP) provides health related expertise to communities interested in fluoridating their drinking water supplies. OHP is also responsible for implementing a grant program which distributes funds that eligible communities may use to purchase and install fluoridation feed equipment.

Fluoridation monitoring and reporting

DWEHD is responsible for regulating the activities of fluoridating CWS's in Michigan. This responsibility includes assuring water fluoridation is conducted in a safe and effective manner. CWS's must obtain a permit from DWEHD to fluoridate their drinking water supplies and must monitor the fluoride levels in their water system on a regular basis. The operational and monitoring information is reported to DWEHD monthly.