Children and adolescents who do not drink fluoridated tap water are much more likely to have tooth decay, according to a US study. However, the study also said that those who drink tap water are more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina (UNC) in the US analysed a nationally representative sample of nearly 16,000 children and adolescents aged two to 19 years who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 2005 to 2014. More than 12,000 records included data on blood lead level and about 5,600 had dental caries examination data.
According to the results of the study, people who did not drink tap water were more likely than tap water drinkers to have tooth decay, but were less likely to have elevated blood lead levels. Those who drank tap water had significantly higher prevalence of elevated blood lead levels than children who did not drink tap water, the researchers said in the study published in the journal Preventive Medicine. Overall, nearly three per cent of children and adolescents had elevated blood lead levels and 49.8% had tooth decay.
“Elevated blood lead levels affect only a small minority of children, but the health consequences are profound and permanent,” said Anne E Sanders, from the UNC. “On the other hand, tooth decay affects one in every two children, and its consequences, such as toothache, are immediate and costly to treat,” Sanders added.