Research on the benefits of water fluoridation for preventing caries has been going on for decades, while there is much less information on the effects of stopping fluoridation.
In 2007, residents of Juneau, the capital of Alaska, voted to stop adding fluoride to their drinking water for fear of harm. Scientists from the University of Alaska Anchorage found out what this led to.
In a study published in Oral Health BMCMedicaid data from two groups of children and adolescents aged 18 years and under were evaluated.
The first group consisted of 853 patients who were treated for caries in 2003. They were in “optimal conditions” when their drinking water was fluoridated. The second group – 1052 patients – was treated for caries in 2012 under “unfavorable conditions” (five years after the cessation of fluoridation).
The researchers determined that this time gap resulted in a significant difference in the prevalence of caries in the younger age group. Children under 6 years old from the first group were treated on average for caries and its consequences 1.55 times a year, while in the second group this figure increased to 2.52. That is, after the cessation of fluoridation, children went to the dentist once a year more often.
In children and adolescents over 6 years of age, the effect was less pronounced. The researchers hypothesized that there was a partial protection associated with exposure to fluoride on tooth enamel at an early age (before the ban in 2007).
“The study shows that without optimal levels of fluoride in drinking water, and therefore in the mouth and saliva, teeth can form with weaker enamel and are unable to remineralize early signs of decay,” the researchers explained.
The results prove that even with the use of fluoride toothpaste, rinsing and professional caries prevention, water fluoridation has a therapeutic and preventive effect for the population.
“The cost of a fluoridation program, which is actually to fluoridate the water, is pennies compared to the cost of treating cavities,” said Jennifer Meyer, lead author of the study.