If you have an ACS member number, please enter it here so we can link this account to your membership. (optional)

ACS values your privacy. By submitting your information, you are gaining access to C&EN and subscribing to our weekly newsletter. We use the information you provide to make your reading experience better, and we will never sell your data to third party members.



Fluoride And Cavities

March 22, 2010 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 88, Issue 12

I read Joe Shields's letter suggesting that socioeconomic status might affect dental health and be a statistical factor that could be a confounding variable with regard to the preventative effects of fluoride in potable water on dental caries (C&EN, Dec. 7, 2009, page 5).

A study that eliminated socioeconomic factors was performed in England back in the 1970s. In this study, 386 15-year-old children from West Hartlepool were examined by a dentist under standardized conditions, and the DMF (decayed, missing, or filled) scores were recorded. The same dentist also examined 381 15-year-olds in York and recorded the DMF scores. The children from the two cities were of the same age, had comparable socioeconomic backgrounds and the same general health status; the only difference was that the drinking water in West Hartlepool was naturally fluoridated, containing 1.5–2.0-ppm fluoride, whereas York water contained only 0.15–0.25-ppm fluoride.

There was a marked and statistically significant difference in DMF scores: Children in fluoridated West Hartlepool had a DMF score of 5.0 ± 3.1, whereas those in nonfluoridated York had a DMF score of 9.0 ± 3.9 (p < 0.001). In other words, the difference in decay rates was wholly attributable to the presence of fluoride in drinking water, a finding that was not confounded by socioeconomic factors.

J. A. von Fraunhofer


This article has been sent to the following recipient:

Chemistry matters. Join us to get the news you need.