Water fluoridation still a cost-effective preventive measure

Teams of investigators from the University of Melbourne and New South Wales Health today reported the results of a project investigating the impact of changing dental needs on the cost savings from community water fluoridation in Melbourne, Australia.

By adopting a novel approach to the construction of an economic model, they were able to track how cost savings from water fluoridation vary over time for any given age group and level of dental decay. Central to the project was their ability to take into consideration the effects of an aging population, lower rates of edentulism (total tooth loss), and consequent higher rates of treatment need for the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth. The findings suggest that, even in an era of declining levels of dental decay and supplementary sources of fluoride, water fluoridation continues to be a cost-effective preventive measure, with annual per person savings ranging from just over AUS$56 in the 1970s to just under AUS$18 in the 1990s. At each of the time points analyzed, however, the cost savings from water fluoridation were shown to decline with age,largely as a result of a plateau in the amount of new tooth decay experienced, lower averted costs of decayed surfaces experienced later in life,and estimates of higher periodontal treatment needs compared with those of younger age groups.

This research lends strong support to the continued application of community water fluoridation as an efficacious and cost-saving public health measure. However, as the trend toward greater tooth retention in an aging population continues, the prospect that the cost-saving benefits of water fluoridation might be offset to some degree by the potentially high costs of periodontal treatment needs later in life highlights the need for public dental health professionals and policy-makers to begin to give consideration to community-based strategies which will be effective in containing these costs.


This is a summary of abstract #789, "Impact of Changing Dental Needs on Cost Savings from Fluoridation," by A.C. Campain, M.V. Morgan, R.J. Marino, and C. Wright (Cooperative Research Centre for Oral Health Science, University of Melbourne; Centre for Oral Health Strategy, NSW Health, Australia), being presented at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 29, 2006, in Exhibit Hall 1 of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, during the 84th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research.

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