US Task Force systematic review (2002)

In 2002, a US Task Force on Community Preventive Services published the findings of its systematic review of 21 studies that had explored the benefits of water fluoridation (1).

One analysis of the effects of starting water fluoridation found an average tooth decay reduction of 50.7% among children aged 4 to 17 during 3 to 12 years of follow up.  Other analyses of different types of study found reductions varying from an average of 29.1% to 41.2%.

Results should apply to most industrialised countries

The Task Force concluded: “Community water fluoridation reduces dental caries by 30%-50% of what could be expected for people not consuming fluoridated water…The results of the review should apply to most populations in the United States and other industrialised countries.” (1)

The Task Force went on strongly to recommend water fluoridation on the basis of its “effectiveness in reducing the occurrence of dental caries within communities”. (2)

Reducing disparities between socio-economic and ethnic groups

The Task Force pointed to other positive effects attributable to water fluoridation, including reduced disparities in caries risk and experience between different socio-economic and ethnic groups, and the ‘halo’ or ‘diffusion’ benefits to residents of non-fluoridated communities as a result of their exposure to processed food and beverage made with fluoridated water.

1. Truman BI, Gooch BF, Sulemana I, Gift HC, Horowitz AM et al (2002): Reviews of evidence on interventions to prevent dental caries, oral and pharyngeal cancers, and sports-related craniofacial injuries. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 23: 21-54.

2. Task Force on Community Preventive Services (2002): Recommendations on selected interventions to prevent dental caries, oral and pharyngeal cancers, and sports-related craniofacial injuries. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 23: 16-20

KEY FINDING

Average reductions in dental
caries of between 30% and 50%
among children aged 4 to 17 in
fluoridated areas compared with
non-fluoridated ones.

TASK FORCE RECOMMENDATION

Fluoridation was recommended by the
US Task Force on Community Preventive
Services on the basis of
‘strong evidence of effectiveness’
in reducing tooth decay.