Study Finds Rise in Tooth Decay Following Cessation of Water Fluoridation

March 2, 2016
Jared Kaltwasser

A new study boosts the case for fluoride in water, showing a market increase in tooth decay when fluoride was removed from a water system in Alberta.

A recent study out of Canada offers new evidence for the inclusion of fluoride in drinking water.

The study, led by researchers from the University of Calgary and assisted by researchers from the University of Alberta, looked at the levels of tooth decay in children following the City of Calgary’s 2011 decision to stop fluoridating water. The study used Edmonton as a control, since that city continues to fluoridate its water.

The researchers looked at tooth decay data from second-graders in both cities for the 2004-2005 school year and the 2013-2014 school year. They found the number of tooth surfaces showing decay increased by 3.8 surfaces for children in Calgary, while it increased by just 2.0 surfaces for Edmonton children over the same time period, a statistically significant difference.

Steven Patterson, a dentist and professor at the University of Alberta’s School of Dentistry, said the data ought to persuade public health officials.

“The early effects of fluoridation cessation found in this study support the role of water fluoridation in contributing to improved oral health of children and that it is a public health measure worth maintaining,” he said, in a press release from the University of Calgary.

The study included some 5,000 children, from both public and private schools. The results were published in Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.

Lindsay McLaren, PhD, of the University of Calgary, said she was struck that such a difference was observed so shortly after the cessation of water fluoridation.

“It had only been about three years since fluoride was removed, which is on the short side,” said McLaren, the study’s lead author, in the press release. “Plus, there are potentially several sources of fluoride in both environments, which would tend to reduce the observed effect of removing fluoride from drinking water.”

Both the American Dental Association and Canadian Dental Association support water fluoridation.