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Research shows that water fluoridation prevents tooth decay

by Pragati Singh

Researchers claim that water fluoridation is less harmful to the environment than other tooth decay prevention techniques. The study’s results further support the need for water fluoridation programmes to reduce dental decay, especially in the most susceptible populations.

Fluoridation of water has been hailed as one of the most important 20th-century public health initiatives. The role of healthcare and disease prevention in the climate catastrophe, however, must be investigated as it gets worse. The time for action is now. This urgency led researchers to estimate the environmental effects of water fluoridation for a single five-year-old child over the course of a year. They did this by drawing comparisons to the conventional application of fluoride varnish and toothbrushing campaigns, both in the UK and overseas.

Today, fluoridated water is available to more than 35% of the world’s population, and studies show that tooth decay has significantly decreased. There is currently no proof of the environmental effects of water fluoridation, despite statistics on the clinical efficacy and cost-benefit analyses being accessible.

The research team methodically calculated the combined travel, weight, and quantities of all objects and activities engaged in all three preventative programmes in order to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to evaluate this impact (toothbrushing, fluoride varnish programmes, and water fluoridation). The team used the Ecoinvent database to determine environmental outputs like carbon footprint, the amount of water needed for each product, and land use. Data were placed into a specific environmental application (OpenLCA).

The results of the study, which were led by Brett Duane, Associate Professor in Dental Public Health at Trinity College, showed that water fluoridation had the least adverse effects on the environment of all the categories examined and the least adverse effects on disability-adjusted life years of all the community-level caries prevention programmes. The study also found that fluoridating drinking water offers the best return on investment.

Due to the balance of clinical effectiveness, financial effectiveness, and environmental sustainability, researchers believe that water fluoridation should be the preventative intervention of choice.

This study strengthens the argument for water fluoridation programmes around the world to reduce dental decay, especially in the most vulnerable populations.

“As the climate situation increases, we must identify techniques to prevent disease in order to decrease the environmental impact of our health-care systems,” said Associate Professor Duane. This study unequivocally demonstrates that water fluoridation is an efficient preventative measure with a minimal carbon footprint.

There should be increased efforts to encourage access to this technique, said Professor Paul Ashley, Senior Clinical Lecturer (Honorary NHS Consultant) at the University College London Eastman Dental Institute.

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