March 30, 2023
Contact: Black Hawk County Public Health
Black Hawk County Public Health’s I-Smile Program delivered certificates to the cities of Waterloo and Cedar Falls in recognition of the Water Fluoridation Quality Award from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the third year in a row for both cities to receive this recognition. The award recognizes communities that achieve excellence in community water fluoridation by maintaining a consistent level of fluoride in drinking water throughout 2021. Fluoridation is the adjustment of fluoride in drinking water to a level that is effective for preventing tooth decay.
CDC recommends water fluoridation as one of the most practical, cost-effective, equitable, and safe measures a community can take to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health. It is estimated that for every dollar a community invests in water fluoridation, more than $20 are saved in dental treatment costs.
Unfortunately, even with optimal fluoridation in two of the largest communities in Black Hawk County, the county still leads the state in the rate of childhood tooth decay. Finding providers that accept Medicaid, can often be an issue for public health staff and the families they serve. “Fluoridation of water is a cost effective and proven way to maintain the oral health of our community,” said Deputy Director Kaitlin Emrich. “However, access to dental treatment is a major health equity concern in Black Hawk County. Families with Medicaid or no insurance face long delays in preventive services and treatment which can impact a child’s quality of life and ability to learn.”
The I-Smile @School program visits local elementary schools to conduct oral health screenings, provide fluoride and varnish, and navigate children to dental treatment if necessary. In the 2022-23 school year, the I-Smile @School program has completed 2,888 oral health screenings, provided 2,811fluoride applications, and 1,229 dental sealants placed. Over 31% of the children screened by the I-Smile @School program needed navigation to treatment and more than 1 in 3 children had cavities.
Oral health begins at home. Parents are encouraged to have their children drink tap water over bottled, begin taking their child to the dentist by age one, and assist with brushing teeth through the age of seven. If a family needs help finding a dentist, they are encouraged to call the I-Smile program 319-292-2247.