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Silent VictoriesThe History and Practice of Public Health in Twentieth Century America$
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John W. Ward and Christian Warren

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780195150698

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195150698.001.0001

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Changing the Face of America: Water Fluoridation and Oral Health

Changing the Face of America: Water Fluoridation and Oral Health

(p.307) 14 Changing the Face of America: Water Fluoridation and Oral Health
Silent Victories

Brian A. Burt

Scott L. Tomar

Oxford University Press

During the early- to mid-1900s, dental caries (i.e., tooth decay), frequently associated with uncomfortable treatment and tooth loss, was one of life's less pleasant certainties. However, the dental health outlook for Americans growing up during the later part of the 1900s was quite different. Substantial improvements in oral health were the result of many factors, including rising standards of living, better treatment technology, and more positive attitudes toward oral health. However, the widescale exposure of Americans to fluoride also played a crucial role. The concept of water fluoridation as tool for oral health began with studies which revealed that routine exposure to fluoride reduced the incidence and severity of dental caries. By the start of the 21st century, more than half of the U.S. population had access to fluoridated water. This chapter traces the historical development of fluoride as a tool for preventing dental caries.

Keywords:   20th century, public health, oral health, caries, tooth decay, fluoridation, dental health

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