24 American Dental Association 11. Do adults benefit from fluoridation? Answer. Yes. Fluoridation plays a protective role against tooth decay throughout life, benefiting both children and adults. Fact. While the early fluoridation trials were not designed to study the possible benefits fluoridation might have for adults, by the mid-1950s, it became evident from the results of the first fluoridation trial in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that the beneficial effects of fluoridation were not confined to children drinking the fluoridated water from birth. The fact that a reduction in tooth decay was observed for teeth which had already been calcified or were erupted when fluoridation was started indicated that a beneficial effect could be gained by older age groups.67, 68 Today it is understood that the maximum reduction in tooth decay occurs when fluoride has been incorporated into the tooth during formation and when it also is available at the tooth surface during demineralization and remineralization. Fluoridation works in both ways to prevent tooth decay.9,12,14,16,17 Fluoride and minerals, including calcium and phosphate, are present in saliva7,9 and are stored in dental plaque (a soft, sticky film that is constantly forming on teeth). To halt the formation of tooth decay or rebuild tooth surfaces, fluoride must be constantly present in low concentrations in saliva and plaque.7 Frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride, such as occurs when drinking fluoridated water, helps to maintain the reservoir of available fluoride in saliva and plaque to resist demineralization and enhance remineralization.7,10 In other words, drinking fluoridated water provides the right amount of fluoride at the right place at the right time. Fluoride in water and water-based beverages is consumed many times during the day, providing frequent contact with tooth structures and making fluoride available to fluoride reservoirs in the mouth. This helps explain why fluoride at the low levels found in fluoridated water helps to prevent tooth decay in teeth after they have erupted.7 Additional information on this topic can be found in this Section, Question 2. While teeth already present in the mouth when exposure to water fluoridation begins receive the benefit of decay protection, studies have indicated that adults who have consumed fluoridated water continuously from birth receive the maximum protection against tooth decay.10-14 An Australian study published in 2008 investigating decay experience among Australian Defense Force personnel showed that a longer period of exposure to water fluoridation was associated with lower decay rates in adults between the ages of 17 and 44. Adults who lived at least 90% of their lifetime in communities with fluoridated water had 24% less decay than adults who lived in fluoridated areas for less than 10% of their lifetimes.69 A meta-analysis published in 2007 examining the effectiveness of fluoridation for adults found that fluoridation prevents approximately 27% of tooth decay in adults. It included only studies that were published after 1979. The studies were limited to participants who were lifelong residents of communities with fluoridated water and a control group of lifelong residents of communities without fluoridated water.57 A study published in 2002 examined the differences in tooth decay patterns between two cohorts of young adults: the first grew up before fluoridation was widely available and the second after fluoridation became more widespread. Comparing data from two different U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), NHANES I (1971-1974) and NHANES III (1988-84), results indicated that total tooth decay declined among people aged 45 years and younger. No decline was observed in people aged 46 to 65, a cohort that grew up during the late 40s and early 50s before fluoridation was widely available. This was identified as the major reason this older cohort did not show a decline in tooth decay.70 In 1989, a study conducted in the state of Washington found that adults (20-34 years of age) who had a continuous lifetime exposure to fluoridation water had 31% less tooth decay experience compared to similar aged adults with no exposure to fluoridated water. It also concluded that exposure to fluoridation only during childhood has lifetime benefits since adults exposed to fluoridated water only during childhood had decay experience similar to those adults exposed to fluoridated water only after age 14.71 An important issue for adults is the prevention of root decay.57,58 People in the United States are living longer and retaining more of their natural teeth than ever
Previous Page Next Page