New Study: Fluoridation Holds “Greatest Promise”
Guest blog contributed by the Children’s Dental Health Project
Nearly one in four preschool-age children (23%) in the U.S. has experienced tooth decay. It’s encouraging to know that this percentage has dropped slightly in recent years. Yet even one in four is too high when you consider that virtually all tooth decay is preventable. For this reason, it’s encouraging that a new article in the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) identifies community water fluoridation (CWF) as one of the best strategies for reducing cavities among young children.
The co-authors of this article focused on Medicaid-enrolled children because they recognized that low-income children are at higher risk of tooth decay. Using data from New York state, the research team examined nine strategies to learn how much each one would reduce tooth decay and at what cost (or cost savings).
Researchers assessed the impact of each strategy over a 10-year period if it were implemented by state officials. The objective was to direct policymakers to strategies that provide the biggest “bang for the buck.” The co-authors wrote:
Among fluoride-based interventions, the lowest unit cost and most passive intervention, CWF, holds the greatest promise for both disease reduction and cost savings while equitably reaching all young children receiving Medicaid regardless of their caries risk.
The research was coordinated by the Children’s Dental Health Project, and it was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and health foundations in New York State. The researchers projected the impact of expanded forms of prevention by using a sophisticated technique called System Dynamics Modeling.
Three years ago, a New York City councilman called on the city to stop fortifying its drinking water with fluoride. The JADA article estimates that if the city ended CWF, dental treatment costs among Medicaid-enrolled, preschool-age children would increase by nearly $56 million. The co-authors add:
The overall effect would be far greater, given that CWF additionally benefits young children in families above Medicaid eligibility as well as the entire state’s residents across their life spans.
If you’ve ever watched the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you recall how unpleasant life in Bedford Falls was without George Bailey. Well, without CWF, many children in New York City — and numerous other communities — would be living with much more tooth decay.