Iowa communities can now apply for grants to help them start putting fluoride in their water supplies or to upgrade their current fluoridation systems. Dr. Bob Russell, the state dental director for the Iowa Department of Public Health, says ten communities a year are chosen for grants of $6,000 each.

“Usually, especially in rural, small communities that don’t have large populations, that’s relatively enough,” Dr. Russell says. “It covers all of the basic hardware they’re going to need to add to existing systems. Those dollars were not arbitrarily created. They were actually based on studies we did.”

About 83% of all Iowans have access to sufficient fluoridated water now, but he says there’s still work to do. “We’ve been hearing from a lot of our local components in the communities that fluoridation equipment breaks down over time,” Russell says.

“We’ve been fluoridating since 1954, roughly, and a lot of equipment is aging and needs to be upgraded and there are new communities that are seeking to get fluoridation into their community for the first time.” Some people oppose fluoridation in water and Russell says the decision is left up to each Iowa community.

He says water fluoridation is vital to a community’s oral health and to its overall health. Russell says federal studies clearly show that the life expectancy of Iowans has risen, remarkably, over the past several decades. “If you go back to the days before fluoride where people were dying of acute infections, people were averaging life spans between the late 40s and the late 60s,” Russell says.

“Now, we’re seeing ages in the mid-70s up to the middle 80s. Life expectancy continues to increase even though there’s a fear that somehow quality of life is hampered by fluoride.” Russell says for most cities, every dollar invested in water fluoridation saves 38-dollars in dental treatment costs.

The Iowa Department of Public Health collaborated with the Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation to create the Community Fluoridation Award. To learn more, visit: and click on the “Public Benefit Program” tab.