First 5 LA’s board of commissioners has approved a $20 million Oral Health Community Development Project (OHCD) that will allow communities to fluoridate their water supply to prevent tooth decay, especially in young children.

First 5 LA is a child advocacy organization created by California voters that invests tobacco tax revenues in programs that improve the lives of children from prenatal to age five in Los Angeles County. First 5 LA champions health, education and safety issues benefiting young children and their families.

The Oral Health Community Development Project will supplement existing fluoridation efforts of the Metropolitan Water District by helping cities from throughout Los Angeles County achieve optimally fluoridated water levels. Through this project, the county’s local water boards and municipalities will have an opportunity to fluoridate water supplies at levels that prevent tooth decay, including dental caries in children.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, dental caries are the most common preventable chronic disease in the U.S., and tooth decay is the number one reason that children miss school.

“Today’s commission approval of my oral health initiative means that thousands of kids in Los Angeles County will grow up with healthier, stronger teeth,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is First 5 LA board chairman. “In addition, their families will avoid the inconvenience of unnecessary trips to the dentist for fillings, extractions and other painful and entirely avoidable procedures.”

In Los Angeles County, several cities — including Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, and Long Beach — already have optimally-fluoridated water. Santa Monica’s water supply is expected to be optimally fluoridated in the coming months.

“First 5 LA’s commission believes oral health to be a critical part of the overall healthy growth and development of a child,” said Jonathan Fielding, director of the Department of Public Health and health officer for Los Angeles County. “We are excited about this project, which is such an important investment in the well-being of our children,” Fielding added.

The Oral Health Community Development Project funding will be available to interested cities over the course of three years. Eligible applicants must demonstrate their capacity to execute and maintain fluoridation in their communities. First 5 LA monies will fund the infrastructure needed for water to be fluoridated.

Information about the Oral Health Community Development Project, Evelyn G. Aleman, (213) 482-7555, or the public health communications staff, (213) 240-8144 (during business hours) or (213) 990-7107 (after hours).