Effectiveness of School Water Fluoridation and Dietary Fluoride Supplements in School-aged Children



School water fluoridation and school-based fluoride tablet programs both have been shown in many studies to be effective in preventing dental caries. These studies indicate that school water fluoridation reduces dental decay by approximately 40 percent and school-based fluoride tablet programs by about 30 percent. However, nearly all the studies were done when the prevalence of caries among US schoolchildren was greater than it is today, which makes it difficult to assess their current effectiveness. Data from dental surveys of school-aged children conducted during the past 30 years indicate that overall caries prevalence has declined by more than 75 percent and that of approximal tooth surfaces by more than 90 percent. Recent national data indicate the difference in caries prevalence between children with lifetime residence in either fluoridated or nonfluoridated areas has also diminished, which raises questions about the cost effectiveness of initiating school-based fluoride programs for all areas. There are still groups of children, however, seriously affected by dental caries. It is safe to assume that implementation of school water fluoridation or fluoride tablet programs will result in traditionally reported benefits among these children. Ongoing school-based fluoride programs should not be discontinued until it is known what impact their cessation will have on dental disease.