Background: To determine the association between social deprivation and the prevalence of caries (including caries lesions restricted to enamel) and enamel fluorosis in areas that are served by either fluoridated or non-fluoridated drinking water using clinical scoring, remote blinded, photographic scoring for caries and fluorosis. The study also aimed to explore the use of remote, blinded methodologies to minimize the effect of examiner bias.
Methods: Subjects were male and female lifetime residents aged 11-13 years. Clinical assessments of caries and fluorosis were performed on permanent teeth using ICDAS and blind scoring of standardized photographs of maxillary central incisors using TF Index (with cases for fluorosis defined as TF > 0).
Results: Data from 1783 subjects were available (910 Newcastle, 873 Manchester). Levels of material deprivation (Index of Multiple Deprivation) were comparable for both populations (Newcastle mean 35.22, range 2.77-78.85; Manchester mean 37.04, range 1.84-84.02). Subjects in the fluoridated population had significantly less caries experience than the non-fluoridated population when assessed by clinical scores or photographic scores across all quintiles of deprivation for white spot lesions: Newcastle mean DMFT 2.94 (clinical); 2.51 (photo), Manchester mean DMFT 4.48 (clinical); 3.44 (photo) and caries into dentine (Newcastle Mean DMFT 0.65 (clinical); 0.58 (photo), Manchester mean DMFT 1.07 (clinical); 0.98 (photo). The only exception being for the least deprived quintile for caries into dentine where there were no significant differences between the cities: Newcastle mean DMFT 0.38 (clinical); 0.36 (photo), Manchester mean DMFT 0.45 (clinical); 0.39 (photo). The odds ratio for white spot caries experience (or worse) in Manchester was 1.9 relative to Newcastle. The odds ratio for caries into dentine in Manchester was 1.8 relative to Newcastle. The odds ratio for developing fluorosis in Newcastle was 3.3 relative to Manchester.
Conclusions: Water fluoridation appears to reduce the social class gradient between deprivation and caries experience when considering caries into dentine. However, this was associated with an increased risk of developing mild fluorosis. The use of intra-oral cameras and remote scoring of photographs for caries demonstrated good potential for blinded scoring.