Large socioeconomic disparities in dental caries prevalence were observed in the permanent teeth of students in North Carolina, according to Go Matsuo, BDS, MPH, of Tohoku University Graduate School of Dentistry in Nagasaki, Japan.
Go Matsuo, BDS, MPH.
"Community water fluoridation is effective in reducing oral health disparities in dental caries," he said in a presentation at the meeting.
Despite an overall decline in dental caries due to community water fluoridation, inequalities in the U.S. persist. Experts believe exposure to all may be helpful in tightening the disparity gap.
The study, which Dr. Matsuo hopes to be published by the end of 2019, examined whether community water fluoridation reduces dental caries disparities in the permanent teeth of students between the ages of 10 and 19 in North Carolina.
Researchers used the 2003-2004 North Carolina Oral Health Section Statewide Dental Survey to review data from approximately 4,400 students. The data were used to determine whether parental education levels and lifetime exposure to community water fluoridation affected caries.
Overall, the findings showed that the greater the exposure level to community water fluoridation, the lower the prevalence of dental caries.
Family education levels of children who had lifetime exposure to fluoride through their water supplies had little effect on their number of caries.
However, education attainment did affect the likelihood of children having caries if they were not exposed to fluoride their entire lives. Children with a parent who reported graduation from college were likely to have 1.78 teeth with caries. Those with parents reporting high school graduation or less education were likely to have 3.1 teeth with caries.
Though the study shows the value of community water fluoridation, the study had some limitations, including recall bias and cross-sectional data. Additionally, some important variables may not have been included in the study, Dr. Matsuo noted.
When clinicians plan to work to tackle oral health disparities, a multilevel, upstream approach, such as community water fluoridation, should be used, he said.
"These results can help guide public health interventions," Dr. Matsuo added.
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