Can the addition of fluoride to bottled water prevent tooth decay? That question will be studied by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry in a multiyear clinical trial.
Funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the waterBest study will be conducted on infants in Lenoir County, where many young children have tooth decay. Most tap water in the county, which is in eastern North Carolina and about 75 miles outside of Raleigh, does not contain fluoride, according to the waterBest study site.
Caregivers in Lenoir County with children who are 2 to 6 months old are eligible to participate. Enrollment will occur from December 2021 through December 2022.
Every month, a member of the study team will deliver 5-gal water bottles to participants as needed. Families who participate will be asked to refrain from giving their children tap water, but otherwise, they will be encouraged to continue their usual diets and healthcare.
Every three months, a researcher will interview parents about their children's health. Once a year, participating children will have dental checkups at home. When children turn 4, they will have dental exams at home. Study visits will occur through 2026.
In addition to monetary compensation, participants will receive free bottled water, a water cooler, shelves for water bottles, and baby bottles and sippy cups.