U.K. study: Areas with fluoridation have lower extraction rate

Extending water fluoridation to U.K. areas with high levels of tooth decay could save millions and reduce the number of extractions in young people, according to a new report in the British Dental Journal (March 7, 2014).

Researchers compared the oral health of the population in North West England, where fluoride is not normally added to mains water, to the oral health in the West Midlands, where fluoride is added.

They analyzed hospital statistics for the three-year period between 2006 and 2009. They found that about 6,000 young people in the North West up to the age of 19 years were admitted annually for dental extractions, while about 1,100 young people were admitted each year for dental extractions in the West Midlands.

While the population of the North West is a third larger than that of the West Midlands, the authors concluded the population difference did not account for the difference seen for each of the three years.

Fluoridation was begun in several places in the West Midlands in the mid-1960s, covering about 3.4 million people or about 60% of the total population. This compares with about 4% of people living in the North West who have fluoride in their public water.

Using data from 2008 to 2009 when the cost of extracting a tooth under general aesthetic was 558 pounds ($934 in current rates), the researchers stated that the National Health Service (NHS) could save 4 million pounds ($6.7 million) on treating tooth decay in the North West, compared with money being spent in the West Midlands.

They concluded that extending water fluoridation would not only save the NHS money, it would also free up time and dental surgical expertise, and prevent many young people from having to undergo traumatic dental extractions.

However, the study authors stated that one drawback to their findings is that they were unable to take account of how long people now living in fluoridated areas had been exposed to fluoride throughout their lives.

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