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Study shows modest benefits to children of water fluoridation

  • Date: 15 November 2022

FLUORIDATION of the water supply may confer a “modest benefit” to the dental health of children, according to a seven-year-study led by University of Manchester researchers.

The benefits were found to be smaller than shown in previous studies carried out 50 years ago when fluoride toothpaste was less widely available in the UK.

The study concludes that water fluoridation was likely a cost effective way to help reduce some of the £1.7 Billion a year the NHS spends on dental caries.

The study assessed the dental health of two cohorts of young children over a six year period in West Cumbria where water fluoridation was reintroduced in 2013

A younger cohort of 1,444 five year olds were born after water fluoridation was introduced (getting the full effect of water fluoridation) and an older cohort of 1,192 eleven year olds were age five when fluoride was reintroduced into the water supply – which meant they mainly received the benefit for those teeth already in the mouth.

In the younger cohort, 17.4 per cent of the children in fluoridated areas had decayed, filled or missing milk teeth compared to 21.4 per cent for children in non-fluoridated areas, amounting to a modest 4 per cent reduction in incidence of caries.

In the older cohort, 19.1 per cent of the children in fluoridated areas had decayed, filled or missing permanent teeth compared to 21.9 per cent for children in non-fluoridated areas. The researchers concluded there was insufficient evidence as to whether water fluoridation prevents decay in older children with a difference of 2.8 per cent.

Dr Michaela Goodwin from The university of Manchester, senior investigator on the project said: “While water fluoridation is likely to be cost effective and has demonstrated an improvement in oral health it should be carefully considered along with other options, particularly as the disease becomes concentrated in particular groups.

The research was led by a team from the University’s Division of Dentistry in collaboration with Cambridge University, Kings College London, Salford Royal Foundation Trust and the specialist dental services at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust.

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