Reduced dental treatment costs generally outweigh  fluoridation costs, US study finds (2001)

An economic evaluation of fluoridation by US researchers published in 2001 estimated that the reduction in the cost of restorative dental treatment exceeded the cost of fluoridation in communities of all sizes and in all scenarios based on assumed reductions of tooth decay from 12% to 29%.

The costs of fluoridation included capital expenditure on plant, equipment and consultant engineering fees, together with annual operating expenditure on fluoride materials, labour and maintenance.  These were then offset against reduced expenditure on dental treatment.

When assuming a ‘worst case scenario’ of only a 12% reduction in tooth decay, the team found that the annual cost savings of fluoridation ranged from $0.85 per person per annum in communities of less than 5,000 people to $3.52 per person per annum in communities of more than 20,000 people.

When assuming a ‘best case scenario’ of as much as a 29% reduction in tooth decay, the team found that the annual cost savings of fluoridation ranged from $31.04 per person per annum in communities of less than 5,000 people to $33.71 per person per annum in communities of more than 20,000 people.

The researchers stressed in their report that the magnitude of the cost savings resulting from fluoridation will depend on a variety of factors related to the population to be served by a new scheme.  The higher the incidence of tooth decay before fluoridation starts, and the larger the population to be served, the greater the economic benefits are likely to be.

However, they pointed to the complications arising from the fact that some populations nominally in non-fluoridated areas of the United States could already be receiving a ‘diffused benefit’, which may result from the widespread distribution in non-fluoridated communities of bottled and canned drinks manufactured in fluoridated communities.

QUOTES FROM GRIFFIN ET AL REPORT, 2001

Reduction in dental costs exceeds cost of fluoridation

“With use of the most current data available on the effectiveness and costs of water fluoridation, caries increment and the costs and longevity of dental restorations, we found that the reduction in costs of restorative care due to averted disease exceeded the cost of water fluoridation in communities of any size.”

Estimates exclude potentially higher dental treatment costs

“We assumed that simple amalgam restorations would always be used to treat initial decay and in subsequent replacements.  These assumptions ignore potentially costlier treatment, including for example, composite restorations, root canal treatment, crowns and bridges.”

KEY FIGURES FROM REPORT

Assuming only a 12% reduction in tooth decay, annual cost savings of fluoridation ranged from $0.85 per person per annum in communities of less than 5,000 people to $3.52 per person per annum in communities of more than 20,000 people.