Effective use of fluorides for the prevention of dental caries in the 21st century: the WHO approach

Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2004 Oct;32(5):319-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0528.2004.00175.x.


Despite great improvements in the oral health of populations across the world, problems still persist particularly among poor and disadvantaged groups in both developed and developing countries. According to the World Oral Health Report 2003, dental caries remains a major public health problem in most industrialized countries, affecting 60-90% of schoolchildren and the vast majority of adults. Although it appears that dental caries is less common and less severe in developing countries of Africa, it is anticipated that the incidence of caries will increase in several countries of that continent, due to changing living conditions and dietary habits, and inadequate exposure to fluorides. Research on the oral health effects of fluoride started around 100 years ago; the focus has been on the link between water and fluorides and dental caries and fluorosis, topical fluoride applications, fluoride toothpastes, and salt and milk fluoridation. Most recently, efforts have been made to summarize the extensive database through systematic reviews. Such reviews concluded that water fluoridation and use of fluoride toothpastes and mouthrinses significantly reduce the prevalence of dental caries. WHO recommends for public health that every effort must be made to develop affordable fluoridated toothpastes for use in developing countries. Water fluoridation, where technically feasible and culturally acceptable, has substantial advantages in public health; alternatively, fluoridation of salt and milk fluoridation schemes may be considered for prevention of dental caries.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control*
  • Fluoridation*
  • Humans
  • World Health Organization*