The fluoridation of drinking water was among the great public health achievements of the 20th century. A recent study ‘Water fluoridation and dental caries in US children and adolescents’, published in the Journal of Dental Research, evaluated associations between the availability of community water fluoridation and dental caries (decay) in US child and adolescent populations.
In this large study, county-level estimates of the percentage of the population with community water fluoridation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were merged with dental examination data from 10 years of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys.
The analysis showed that children and adolescents with greater access to fluoridated drinking water were less likely to experience decay. Counties in which over 75% of the population had access to community water fluoridation saw a 30% reduction in dental decay in baby teeth, and a 12% reduction in dental decay in the permanent teeth, compared to counties in which less than 75% had access to community water fluoridation.
The findings are consistent with evidence from the last 50 years showing that water fluoridation continues to provide a substantial dental health benefit. The current study boosts the evidence by showing that the benefit is most pronounced early in life, in the baby teeth of two to eight year olds.
Maria Ryan, President of the American Association for Dental Research said: “This study confirms previously reported findings and provides additional evidence in support of water fluoridation as a core public health intervention promoting oral health”.