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Studies underscore efficacy of water fluoridation

June 18, 2018

By Michelle Manchir

Children and adolescents in the U.S. with greater access to fluoridation were less likely to experience dental caries in a study published in June in the Journal of Dental Research.

For the article, “Water Fluoridation and Dental Caries in U.S. Children and Adolescents,” researchers evaluated associations between the availability of community water fluoridation and dental caries experience in children and adolescents.

Study authors used estimates of the percentage of population with fluoridation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Fluoridation Reporting System. The information was merged with dental examination data from 10 years of National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES 1999-2004 and 2011-2014).

Researchers discovered a 30 percent reduction in dental caries experience in the primary dentition in counties where more than 75 percent of the population had access to community water fluoridation when compared to communities where less than 75 percent had access to community water fluoridation. They also noted a 12 percent reduction in dental cares in the permanent dentition.

“The findings are consistent with evidence from the last half-century showing that community water fluoridation continues to provide a substantial dental health benefit for U.S. children and adolescents,” according to a news release about the study from the American Association of Dental Research.

Another report, published in June, has similar conclusions.

 For the article, “Contemporary Evidence on the Effectiveness of Water Fluoridation in the Prevention of Childhood Caries,” researchers in Australia analyzed a detailed national child oral health study conducted in 2012-14 and found caries prevalence and experience higher among children in Australia with lower lifetime exposure to fluoridated water. ADA members can access this article, published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, online through the ADA Library.

“Considered together, these studies provide dynamic contemporary evidence regarding the effectiveness of fluoridation, which is often requested by policy decision makers,” said Dr. Bonita Neighbors, chair of the ADA National Fluoridation Advisory Committee.

The ADA endorses community water fluoridation as a safe, beneficial, cost-effective and socially equitable public health measure for preventing dental caries in children and adults. For more information, visit

Nationwide, in 2014, 74.4 percent of the U.S. population on public water systems, or a total of 211,393,167 people, had access to fluoridated water, according to the CDC. However, access to fluoridated water varies greatly between states. According to 2014 CDC data, in 27 states, 75 percent or more of the population had access to fluoridated water, while in eight states less than half of the population had the same access.

If you are considering an effort to initiate fluoridation in your community or are facing a fluoridation challenge, the ADA can help. Contact Jane McGinley, ADA manager for fluoridation and preventive health activities, by email at or call 1-312-440-2862.