5. What role does fluoride play in preventing tooth decay?
Fluoride taken up into the enamel during tooth formation helps reduce tooth decay later on. It can be supplied by adding fluoride to toothpaste, mouthwash, drinking water or salt. European Union wide trends show a reduction in tooth decay in 12 year olds regardless of whether water is fluoridated.
There is no obvious advantage in favour of water fluoridation compared withtopical application, that is via toothpaste, mouthwash or gel. The effect of continued exposure to fluoride from whatever source is questionable once the permanent teeth have erupted.
There is some evidence that water fluoridation mainly benefits children from lower socio-economic groups, and so reduces inequalities in dental health across social classes.