In 2007, the people of Juneau, the capital of Alaska, voted to stop adding fluoride to their drinking water for fear of harm. After five years, children had to be treated for cavities once a year more often.
Research on the benefits of water fluoridation for prevention caries have been carried out for decades, while there is much less information about the consequences 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. Researchers from the University of Alaska Anchorage found out what happened.
The study, published in BMC Oral Health, evaluated public health insurance Medicaid data from two groups of children and adolescents aged 18 and under.
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 – were 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 dental 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 older than 6 years, 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 mouth and saliva, teeth can form with weaker enamel and fail to remineralize early signs of decay,” the researchers explained.
The results show that even with fluoride toothpaste, rinsing, and professional caries prevention, water fluoridation has a curative and preventive effect on the population.
“The cost of a fluoridation program, which is actually to fluoridate water, is pennies compared to the cost of treating cavities,” summarized Jennifer Meyer (Jennifer Meyer), lead author of the study.