Researchers have discovered that adding fluoride to water has little benefit for children’s dental health.
The scientists stated that water fluoridation can be considered an effective way to reduce the costs that the British National Health Service spends annually on tooth decay, amounting to 1.7 billion pounds sterling.
However, the team of scientists discovered that the benefits of fluoride in water appear to be less than previously observed – in studies conducted half a century ago, when fluoride toothpaste was not widely available in the UK.
Despite their findings, which were published in the journal Public Health Research, the scientists recommended water fluoridation, but in parallel with other measures to protect children’s dental health, especially vulnerable children who are more susceptible to tooth decay.
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Dr Michaela Goodwin, from the University of Manchester and lead researcher on the project, explained: “While water fluoridation is likely to be cost-effective and contribute to improving oral health, it should be considered carefully alongside other options, particularly as disease is concentrated in clusters. certain.”
Nearly 3,000 children in Cumbria were followed over six years as part of the Cumbria Dental Assessment – An Interventional Study of the Health Benefits of Fluoride funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research. The children were divided into two groups across two sites – one in the West Cumbria, which saw the introduction of water fluoridation in 2013, and the other in the rest of Cumbria, whose water does not contain fluoride.
In West Cumbria, the group of younger children were born after the introduction of water fluoridation, meaning they were exposed to the full effect of the procedure.
The oldest group was about five years old when fluoride was reintroduced into their water supply, which means they essentially got a benefit from brushing their teeth with fluoridated water.
In addition to collecting data on dental exams, the researchers also collected information about children participating in a study in which participants were given fluoridated water without mentioning it.
The results showed that in the younger group, 17.4 percent of children in areas with fluoride-treated water reported tooth decay, had to have a filling, or lost their milk teeth, compared to 21.4 percent of children in the same age group in areas containing Fluoridated water – revealing a modest four percentage point reduction in the incidence of cavities.
Meanwhile, 19.1 percent of children in the older group in the fluoride-treated areas had cavities, had to have a filling, or lost some of their teeth permanently, compared to 21.9 percent of children in the areas without water fluoridation.
While tooth decay in children has decreased significantly over the past 50 years, recent statistics revealed that one in four (23 percent) five-year-olds in 2019 suffered from tooth decay.
Dr Goodwin said: “Tooth decay is an unusual disease, which is why it is so important to take measures to treat it. Extracting children’s teeth under general anesthesia poses a risk to their health and is the most common reason for children aged between 5 and 9 to have general anesthesia.
She added: “Caries are painful and can affect sleep patterns, learning, attention and many aspects of general health. But more questions remain and we hope to follow up on these children for the long term.”