Water fluoridation good for teeth and environment

UK researchers have demonstrated for the first time the low environmental footprint of water fluoridation compared to other preventive measures for tooth decay. 

UK researchers have demonstrated the low environmental footprint of water fluoridation compared to other preventive measures for tooth decay.

Trinity College Dublin researchers collaborating with University College London quantified the environmental impact of fluoridation for an individual five-year-old child over one year. They compared this to the traditional use of fluoride varnish and toothbrushing programs. These programs take place in selected schools across the UK and internationally.

The study is published in the British Dental Journal.

Today, over 35 per cent of the world’s population has access to water fluoridation. Studies show significant reductions in dental caries. While data on the clinical effectiveness and cost analysis of fluoridation is available, there has been no data regarding its environmental impact.

The research team performed a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to quantify this impact. They carefully measured the combined travel, weight and amounts of all products. The research team also looked at the processes involved in all three preventive programs (toothbrushing, fluoride varnish, and water fluoridation).

Process behind water fluoridation research

Data was inputted into a specific environmental program (OpenLCA). The team used the Ecoinvent database, enabling them to calculate ecological outputs. Those outputs included the carbon footprint, the amount of water used for each product, and land use.

The study results concluded that fluoridation had the lowest environmental impact in all categories studied. It also had the lowest disability-adjusted life years impact compared to all other community-level caries prevention programs.

The study also found that fluoridation gives the greatest return on investment. Considering the balance between clinical effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability, researchers believe that water fluoridation should be the preventive intervention of choice.

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