Water fluoridation has a bad image problem. It’s being accused of everything from being a way to put toxic waste in our water to causing bone development problems. Despite the fact that there is little to no evidence of any harm from water fluoridation, the anti-fluoridation forces have one powerful piece of ammunition in their arsenal: lack of research. Although there is research supporting the effectiveness of water fluoridation, it often fails because it’s small, short-term, or otherwise not rigorous.
But now a new study has given some major support to the use of water fluoridation. And it’s a strategically valuable study because it says that stopping fluoridation could hit parents where it hurts: in their pocketbook as they pay for more reconstructive dentistry like fillings.
Fewer Cavities, Fewer Visits, and Lower Costs
This study started out with a random sample of over one million Koreans selected in 2003. Those who had previous cavities were excluded–having current cavities increases your risk of future cavities–leaving a population of over 472,000 for the study. These patients’ medical records were looked at during the ten years from 2003 to 2013, with an average follow-up of about 9 years.
During this period, the number of patients who visited the dentist to care for cavities was significantly lower. In areas with fluoridation 46.98% visited the dentist for cavities, compared to 48.66% in areas without fluoridation. This was a statistically significant drop.
Along with the decrease in cavities, patients saw a decrease of overall visits to the dentist, and, as a result, an overall reduction in the cost of dental care.
Who Benefits Most?
Some other interesting insights from this study showed that the benefits of water fluoridation seemed to increase over time. The longer fluoridation had been going on, the greater the benefits seen by the population. That’s because fluoridation supports the remineralization of teeth, resulting in long-term protection of teeth.
Water fluoridation is often represented as a way to protect children’s teeth. Children definitely benefited from water fluoridation, but it was actually the elderly that experienced the greatest benefit from water fluoridation. These may be due to many potential factors, such as not being able to properly brush their teeth or being unable to get fluoride through other sources.
Another population that saw a large reduction in dental visits for cavities was those who weren’t seeing their dentist for preventive care. It’s long been argued that fluoridation has a disproportionate benefit for those who don’t have access to regular dental care.
Fluoridated Water Is Only Part of the Solution
Although fluoridated water can make a difference in reducing your cavity risk, there are many other approaches that should also be used to help keep your teeth healthy and free of cavities.
Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial. It’s also important to make regular dental visits, and eat a diet that doesn’t promote tooth decay. Special treatments like CariFree can make an even bigger difference.