Access to community water fluoridation in rural Victoria: It depends where you live…

Aust J Rural Health. 2023 Jun;31(3):493-502. doi: 10.1111/ajr.12973. Epub 2023 Feb 24.


Objective: To explore the water fluoridation status of rural Victorian towns over 1000 population and document the oral health profile in the local government areas (LGAs) currently with no water fluoridation. To assist/inform future LGA planning, we describe a case study of a community-based co-design approach to increase access to fluoridated water in rural communities.

Design: A descriptive design and a case study.

Setting: Rural Victorian towns over 1000 population.

Participants: Twenty-nine LGAs in rural areas.

Main outcome measure(s): LGA water fluoridation status and oral health profiles.

Results: Sixty-six (33%) of the 203 Victorian rural towns with >1000 population, representing 149 251 people, did not have access to fluoridated water. Towns in 29 rural LGAs were included with 62% without water fluoridation with many having higher than the Victorian average of preventable hospital admissions due to dental conditions in children aged 0-9 years. Over 50% of children aged 0-12 years living in these rural nonfluoridated LGAs had above-the-state average rates of decayed, missing and filled teeth (dmft/DMFT). In those aged 0-5 years, this was the highest with 78% above-the-state average. In the case study, meetings were well attended, and the group resolved to lobby for water fluoridation, which was successful.

Conclusion: Many Victorian rural towns do not have access to fluoridated water. A community-based co-design approach can dispel ill-informed concerns about dangers of water fluoridation to successfully lobby the state government to fluoridate the local water supply.

Keywords: community-led; dental caries; fluoridation; oral health; rural.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • DMF Index
  • Dental Caries*
  • Fluoridation
  • Humans
  • Oral Health
  • Rural Population*