Fluoridated Drinking Water Reduces Tooth Decay in Adults, Study Finds

A new study published in the Journal of Dental Research provides the strongest evidence yet that fluoridated drinking water prevents tooth decay for all adults regardless of age, and whether or not they consumed fluoridated water during childhood.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Adelaide, Australia, fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in adults, even if they start drinking it after childhood (Jenny Downing / CC BY 2.0)

According to a new study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Adelaide, Australia, fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in adults, even if they start drinking it after childhood (Jenny Downing / CC BY 2.0)

“It was once thought that fluoridated drinking water only benefited children who consumed it from birth,” said study lead author Prof Gary Slade from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Now we show that fluoridated water reduces tooth decay in adults, even if they start drinking it after childhood. In public health terms, it means that more people benefit from water fluoridation than previously thought.”

The researchers analyzed data from 3,779 adults aged 15 and older who took part in the Australian National Survey of Adult Oral Health between 2004 and 2006. Survey examiners measured levels of decay and study participants reported where they lived since 1964. The residential histories of study participants were matched to information about fluoride levels in community water supplies.

The team then determined the percentage of each participant’s lifetime in which the public water supply was fluoridated.

The results show that adults who spent more than 75 percent of their lifetime living in fluoridated communities had significantly less tooth decay – up to 30 percent less – when compared to adults who had lived less that 25 percent of their lifetime in such communities.

“At this time, when several Australian cities are considering fluoridation, we should point out that the evidence is stacked in favor of long-term exposure to fluoride in drinking water. It really does have a significant dental health benefit,” said study co-author Dr Kaye Roberts-Thomson from the University of Adelaide, Australia.

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Bibliographic information: G.D. Slade et al. Effects of Fluoridated Drinking Water on Dental Caries in Australian Adults. JDR, published online before print March 1, 2013; doi: 10.1177/0022034513481190