A NEW study has found that children from homes with fluoridated water have similar levels of dental erosion to those with no fluoride. It showed that five-year-olds living in fluoridated areas of Cork had the same degree of erosion of their teeth as those from non-fluoridated communities.
Researchers at the Oral Health Services Research Centre in Cork conducted a pilot study to determine the rate of tooth erosion, a relatively new disease in Ireland. Unlike decay, where bacteria attack the teeth, dental erosion causes the enamel surface of the teeth to be gradually dissolved by chemicals, normally from acidic foods and drink.
Dentists say tooth erosion, which is irreversible, is a growing problem in Ireland. If unchecked, the hard tissue of the teeth can be worn down to the internal pulp layer.
Almost half of the youngsters (47%) participating in the pilot study suffered some erosion of their teeth, and in one in five cases it had progressed through the enamel to the dentine or pulp layers. The study, which assessed 202 five-year-olds, was the first to check the rate of dental erosion in the population.
Children were selected on whether they attended a school with a fluoridated or non-fluoridated water supply. Researchers also recorded whether the child’s home water supply was fluoridated. Children with partial fluoride history were excluded from the analysis.
The report concluded that “no statistical difference existed between the fluoridated and non-fluoridated groups” even though less erosion would have been expected in the fluoridated group.
The proportion of children in the fluoridated group with any erosion was 47% compared with 43% in the non-fluoridated population. The erosion extended to the dentine in 21% of children in fluoridated areas compared to 17% of those in non-fluoridated cases.
“We didn‚t see any difference between the fluoridated and non-fluoridated groups,” said Mairead Harding, a senior clinical dental surgeon and one of the report‚s authors. Approximately 73% of Irish people receive a fluoridated water supply.
Harding decided to investigate the level of tooth erosion in the population after noticing a “high proportion of children” had the disease during routine check-ups. “As a clinical practitioner it was something that seemed to be coming in to the surgery more and more. So we wanted to look on a population base to see what the levels were in the community,” she said.
The amount of soft drinks a child consumed was a factor. The five-year-olds who drank carbonated drinks once a day or more had significantly more dental erosion to dentine level (29%) than those who consumed carbonated drinks less than once a day (17%).
“Milk and water are the kindest and safest drinks for teeth,” said Harding. “Acidic foods and drinks should be limited to meal times and frequency should be reduced.”
Dental erosion leaves the surface of teeth looking very smooth and glassy, and over time it becomes thinner and eventually chips and cracks.