Background: A national survey of oral health of children and adolescents was carried out in the Republic of Ireland (RoI) in 2001/2002.
Aims: To compare the prevalence of caries between child and adolescent residents in fluoridated and non-fluoridated communities in the RoI whilst controlling for disadvantage. To compare caries levels amongst disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged groups with and without water fluoridation. To report the changes in caries levels between the 1960s and 2002 in RoI. To report the changes in dental fluorosis levels between 1984 and 2002.
Methodology: Cross sectional oral health survey of a representative, random, stratified sample of 17,851 5-, 8-, 12- and 15-year-old children and adolescents in RoI. WHO examination criteria with the addition of visible, non-cavitated dentine caries were used for recording caries. Fluorosis was measured using Dean's Index.
Results: In the RoI the mean dmft/DMFT scores for 5-, 8-, 12-, and 15-year-olds were 1.2, 0.3, 1.1 and 2.3. For those with domestic water fluoridation since birth the scores were 1.0, 0.3, 1.1 and 2.1 respectively. In non-fluoridated areas of RoI the mean dmft/DMFT scores for 5-, 8-, 12-, and 15-year-olds was 1.7, 0.3, 1.3 and 3.2, respectively. For 5-, 12- and 15-year-old age groups dental caries levels were lower amongst children with fluoridated domestic water supplies (all p<0.0001). The prevalence of dental fluorosis has increased in RoI since 1984. 23% and 36% of 8- and 15-year olds respectively in fluoridated areas had Dean's Index scores at the questionable or greater level in 2002, compared with 6% and 5% respectively in 1984.
Conclusions: Caries levels are lower among children with fluoridated domestic water supplies. Decay levels are much lower in 2002 than they were in 1984 and in the 1960s. The oral health of the less well off is worse than that of the rest of the population. The prevalence of dental fluorosis is higher amongst children and adolescents with fluoridated water supplies. Comparisons with 1984 data show an increase in the prevalence of fluorosis since that time.