Study values community water fluoridation

Massey News –

New research from Massey University shows that community water fluoridation remains cost-effective, despite an overall reduction in the average number of decayed teeth in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.

Updated observations

Massey University Centre for Public Health Research Senior Analyst Caroline Fyfe and Professor Barry Borman wrote a Paper called, ‘A cost effectiveness analysis of community water fluoridation in New Zealand,’ with Dr Guy Scott and Dr Stuart Birks of the University’s School of Economics and Finance. The Paper was published in a recent issue of the ‘New Zealand Medical Journal.’

The study updates the last economic analysis of community water fluoridation, published by ‘Wright et. Al’ in 2001 and used national data on difference in tooth decay between fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities.

It found community water fluoridation (CWF) was most cost-effective in larger communities but also that the intervention remained cost-effective even in smaller communities (of under 5000 people).

Fluoridated areas

New Zealand was one of the first countries to adopt community water fluoridation to lower rates of dental decay. Results from early trials found that children born and raised in fluoridated areas had, on average, 50% less dental decay than children from non-fluoridated areas.

Today approximately 56% of New Zealanders have access to fluoridated water.

In Massey’s latest study, researchers found communities with a higher risk of dental decay. Those with a high level of economic deprivation or those with a higher proportion of Maori ethnicity benefited most from community water fluoridation.

According to Ms Fyfe, her team gathered information on the costs of installing and running CWF by sending out questionnaires to local authorities fluoridating their water supplies.

“We used data from the 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey to calculate cost savings from reduced demand for dental treatments. The cost-effectiveness of CWF per decayed tooth prevented was compared to an alternative of treating a decayed tooth. Cost-effectiveness was also compared between communities of different population sizes,” she said.

CWF was deemed a cost-effective public health intervention despite a reduction in the average number of decayed teeth in all communities over time.

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