O’Sullivan, V., O’Connell, B.C.

Objective: To examine some of the potential benefits and risks of water fluoridation for older adults.

Methods: This study used The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing to access a nationally representative sample of 4,977 people aged 50 and older. The sample was used to estimate associations between the percentage of households in a respondent’s local area with a currently fluoridated water supply and the probability of two binary outcomes: the respondent having all their own teeth; and, having normal bone density. Past exposure of individuals to fluoridated water was not assessed; the prevalence of fluoridated water in local supplies was obtained from the 2006 Census of Ireland. The Census data indicated that there was considerable variation in the proportion of households with fluoridated water supplies, especially in rural areas. Bone mineral density was estimated from a heel ultrasound of each respondent, and their number of teeth was self-reported. A range of individual variables, such as educational attainment, housing, wealth, age and health behaviours, was controlled for.

Results: It was found that the greater the percentage of households with a fluoridated water supply in an area, the higher the probability that respondents had all their own teeth. There was no significant relationship between the proportion of households with a fluoridated water supply in an area and bone health.

Conclusion: This study suggests that water fluoridation provides a net health gain for older Irish adults, although the effects of fluoridation warrant further investigation.

Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2014; Oct 20. [Epub ahead of print.]