Objective: The effect of water fluoridation upon dental erosion/tooth wear in the UK has not been investigated. This study aimed to compare the prevalence of tooth wear in 14-year-old schoolchildren in non-fluoridated and fluoridated districts of North West (NW) England. The influence of deprivation and tooth brushing was also investigated.
Design: A random sample of 10% of the 14-year-old population in NW England was selected and stratified according to fluoridation status as determined from water authority postcode listings.
Methods: Tooth wear was scored on the labial, incisal and palatal/lingual surfaces of the 12 anterior teeth and the occlusal surfaces of the first molars. Enamel wear was scored 0, dentine was scored 1 or 2, dependent on whether less than or more than a third of the surface had exposed dentine. Secondary dentine or pulpal exposure scored 3. Townsend deprivation scores were gained from residential post codes.
Results: A total of 2,351 children were examined, of which 637 (27%) lived in the one fluoridated district of South Cheshire and 1,714 (73%) lived in 11 non-fluoridated districts. Fifty-three per cent of the children had exposed dentine with significantly more males affected than females (p<0.001). In the fluoridated district, significantly fewer children had exposed dentine on labial and palatal smooth surfaces (p<0.001) but no differences were found for incisal and occlusal surfaces. The interaction of fluoridation and tooth brushing twice per day resulted in a significant (30%) reduction in erosion. Smooth surface wear was more prevalent in children resident in affluent areas.
Conclusion: Children in non-fluoridated districts are 1.5 times more likely to have smooth surface wear compared with children in fluoridated districts. Fluoridation and use of fluoridated toothpaste twice a day provide added protection from dental erosion. The risk of tooth wear is greater with increasing affluence.