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Study reaffirms efficacy of water fluoridation in preventing decay

January 07, 2019

By Michelle Manchir

Kids with Medicaid in Juneau with no access to optimally fluoridated water had more dental caries-related procedures than youth who grew up before the Alaskan capital ceased its fluoridation program, according to research published in December in BMC Oral Health.

For the study, "Consequences of Community Water Fluoridation Cessation for Medicaid-eligible Children and Adolescents in Juneau, Alaska," public health researchers analyzed Medicaid dental claims records of about 1,900 0- to 18-year-old patients in Juneau's main ZIP code. They compared claims from a year in which the city water was fluoridated at an optimal level for tooth decay, 2003, and from 2012, five years after the city ended its fluoridation program.

Researchers found that "by taking the fluoride out of the water supply, the tradeoff for that is children are going to experience one additional caries procedure per year at a ballpark of $300 more per child," said Jennifer Meyer, lead author of the article and an assistant professor of allied health at the University of Alaska, in an NPR article about the research.

Furthermore, children born after community water fluoridation cessation in Juneau underwent the most dental caries procedures and incurred the highest caries treatment costs on average, according to the study.

"These results expand our understanding of caries epidemiology under community water fluoridation cessation conditions and reaffirm that optimal community water fluoridation exposure prevents dental decay," the authors concluded. "These findings can offer fiscal estimates of the cost burden associated with (community water fluoridation) cessation policies and help decision-makers advance oral health, prevent dental caries, and promote equity in oral health outcomes."

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The ADA has endorsed since 1950 the fluoridation of community water supplies as safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay.

For more information or resources about fluoridation, visit