Objectives: Previous studies have attributed the caries-preventive effects of preeruption (PRE) and posteruption (POST) exposure to fluoridated water based on data collected before and after the commencement or discontinuation of water fluoridation. This study aims to determine the relative pre- and posteruption exposure effects of fluoridated water on caries experience of 6-15-year-old Australian children based on individual residential histories.
Methods: Parental questionnaires covering residential history of participants were linked to their oral examinations conducted between June 1991 and May 1992 by the School Dental Services of South Australia and Queensland. Percentage of lifetime exposed to optimally fluoridated water PRE and POST was calculated with respect to the eruption age for first permanent molars. Combined pre- and posteruption categories were created to test PRE against POST exposure: PRE & POST = 0, PRE < POST, PRE = POST in the range 0-90 percent of lifetime exposure, PRE > POST, and PRE & POST > or = 90 percent lifetime exposure. These categories were used as indicator variables with PRE and POST = 0 as reference in an analysis of first permanent molar DMFS scores. The linear regression model controlled for important potential confounders.
Results: Participation rates were 69.7 percent in South Australia and 55.6 percent in Queensland with 9,690 and 10,195 participants, respectively. Pre- and posteruption exposures were strongly correlated (r =. 74; P < .01). Compared to the reference, the categories PRE > POST, PRE = POSTin the range 0-90 percent, and PRE and POST > or = 90 percent showed significantly lower caries levels.
Conclusions: The findings indicated that preeruption exposure was required for a caries-preventive effect and that exposure after eruption alone did not lower caries levels significantly. However, the maximum caries-preventive effects of fluoridated water were achieved by high pre- and posteruption exposure.