This study was published in December 2021.
Despite evidence that community water fluoridation (CWF) protects oral health, improves health equity, is safe and cost-effective, and contributes to social well-being, little is known regarding which of these benefits should be highlighted to effectively influence support for CWF.
This within-participants study examines differences in CWF support in response to pro-CWF messages reflecting themes of oral health, health equity, CWF safety, cost-effectiveness, or social well-being among a sample of parents. Prior belief that CWF has health benefits, worry about potential health risks, and normative beliefs were also examined as independent predictors of support for each theme.
Oral health, health equity, and safety messages significantly increased support in comparison with social well-being messages (P < .05). Oral health messages also produced greater support than cost-savings messages. Belief that CWF has health benefits positively predicted support, as did normative beliefs that one’s family and physician approve of CWF. Worry about health risks and community and dentist norms were not significant predictors of support. There were no interaction effects of message themes and prior beliefs.
Messaging focused on oral health, health equity, and the safety of CWF may be the most effective at influencing support for CWF. Preexisting personal beliefs about CWF benefits significantly predict support, but so do normative beliefs—family and physician norms in particular.
Findings suggest dental health educators should emphasize CWF’s oral health benefits, such as preventing caries, over cost-saving and social well-being outcomes. They should also consider collaborating with family physicians to promote CWF and referencing other groups that may positively influence beliefs that CWF is beneficial.
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This article has an accompanying online continuing education activity available at: http://jada.ada.org/ce/home.
Disclosure. This research was supported by the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation Oral Health Education Fund.