Children drinking fluoride-enhanced water, a new study has found, benefits their dental health in adulthood decades later.
"Your fluoridation exposure at birth is affecting your tooth loss in your 40s and 50s, regardless of what your fluoridation exposure was like when you were 20 and 30 years old," said Matthew Neidell, a health policy professor at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
He combined data from recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention community health study and a water census to see the affects of drinking fluoridated water in the 1950s and 1960s on tooth loss in the 1990s.
For children whose adult teeth have not shown yet, fluoride still improves tooth enamel, the highly mineralized tissue on teeth's surface. Fluoride also helps teeth damaged from the decay process and breaks down bacteria on teeth.
The researchers write that respondents who did not live in the same county their entire lives received differing amounts of fluoride in their water, which complicated study findings.
The study, which focused on tooth loss as an indication of overall oral health, could not adjust for factors such as use of toothpaste, which also provides a dose of fluoride.
To prevent tooth decay, Howard Pollick, a professor of clinical dentistry at the University of California, San Francisco recommends also brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and reducing sugar levels in diet.
Thearticle has been published in the October issue of the American Journal of Public Health.