Children with limited exposure to fluoridated water and a high sugar intake are 70% more likely to develop cavities in their permanent teeth, according to a team of Australian researchers.
The study of 24,664 Australian children raised particular concerns, said Loc Do, PhD, professor in dental public health and research chair at the University of Queensland School of Dentistry.
“The coverage of water fluoridation in Queensland is the lowest in the country, while our intake of free sugars is among the highest,” Do said.
“We hope these results will convince policymakers in jurisdictions without fluoridated water to implement this effective and cost-saving community measure,” he continued.
“We also hope to see the promotion of healthy behaviors like reducing the intake of sugars, which would both improve dental health and help prevent other conditions such as obesity,” he said.
More than half of the 5- to 14-year-olds in the study were considered to have either low exposure to fluoridation (less than 25 of their life) or medium exposure (between 25% and 75% of their life).
Also, approximately 60% of the children analyzed consumed four or more daily servings of food or drinks high in free sugars.
Those who consumed more than four daily servings of high-sugar food or drinks but with high exposure to fluoridation were 40% less likely to develop cavities in their baby teeth than those with low or medium fluoridation.
Those with a diet rich in sugars but with high exposure to fluoridation were 50% less likely to develop cavities in adult teeth than those with lower levels of fluoridation.
It was well known that dental cavities are largely preventable, water fluoridation was effective, and high free-sugar intake was detrimental to child dental health, said lead author Diep Ha, PhD, a research fellow at the University of Queensland School of Dentistry.
“These facts are not surprising or new, but the results from almost 25,000 young people in this study show there is still a need to address these issues to improve child dental health in Australia,” said Ha.
“To achieve maximum prevention of dental decay, lack of exposure to fluoridated water and high intake of sugars should be targeted,” said Ha.
The research used data collected in the National Child Oral Health Study 2012-14, funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Grant to the University of Adelaide and a collaboration with state/territory dental health services.
The study, “Excess Risk of Dental Caries from Higher Free Sugars Intake Combined with Low Exposure to Water Fluoridation,” was published by the Journal of Dental Research.