Fluoridated water puts Australia's children in top 10 in world dental health
Monday, 17 December 2007
Children in Australia have better oral health than children in most other countries, due largely to fluoridated water, according to new research conducted at the University of Adelaide.
A new report into water fluoridation and children's dental health has been released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The report contains the findings of research conducted by the AIHW Dental Statistics and Research Unit at the University of Adelaide.
"At any given age, in both baby teeth and permanent teeth, children who live in areas with optimal fluoridated water have less tooth decay than those from areas with low fluoride levels," says the report's author, Mr Jason Armfield.
"These differences in disease experience between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas were as high as 66% for seven-year-olds," Mr Armfield says.
Optimal water fluoridation was associated with better dental health for both five to six-year-old and 11 to 12-year-old children regardless of the socioeconomic status of the area in which the children lived.
The report, Water fluoridation and children's dental health: The Child Dental Health Survey, Australia 2002, found that compared to children in other countries, Australian 12-year-olds have the seventh lowest average number of decayed, missing and filled permanent teeth.
"Although Australians are doing well in the world stakes, locally, oral health problems in children are still evident," Mr Armfield says.
In 2002, more than 47% of Australian six-year-olds had cavities in their baby teeth. On average, for every six-year-old child in Australia there were approximately two decayed, missing or filled baby teeth.
At the same time, more than 42% of 12-year-olds had cavities in their permanent teeth. For every 12-year-old in Australia, there was approximately one decayed, missing or filled permanent tooth.
Levels of dental decay in children varied around Australia, with the average number of decayed, missing or filled deciduous teeth (among five to six-year-olds) highest in Queensland and the Northern Territory, and lowest in Western Australia and South Australia.
The number of decayed, missing or filled permanent teeth in 12-year-olds was highest for the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland (which does not currently have state-wide fluoridation) and Tasmania, and lowest for South Australia and the Northern Territory.
"Variations by state and territory reflect underlying population levels of disease as well as differences in the targeting of services," Mr Armfield says.
The AIHW Dental Statistics and Research Unit is based in the Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health at the University of Adelaide's School of Dentistry.
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