Lack of Access To Fluoridated Water In Rural Areas In Australia Affecting Children, Study Shows

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Since its introduction in Australia in 1953, water fluoridation has helped improve dental health by reducing tooth decay by 26-44% in teens and children and 27% in adults.

Around 33% of rural areas in Victoria don’t access fluoridated water

A recent study conducted by La Trobe University found that around 33% of rural towns in Victoria with populations exceeding 1,000 do not have fluoridated water, causing high rates of dental issues, especially in children. The research led by Dr. Virginia Dickson-Swift and published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health discovered that this absence of fluoridation affects almost 150,000 people living in 203 towns in Victoria.

The study demonstrated that rural areas without access to fluoridated water have higher rates of preventable hospital admissions for dental issues in children aged 0-9. More than half of children aged 0-12 living in non-fluoridated regions had above-average rates of decayed, missing, and filled teeth, and 78% of children aged 0-5 had above-average rates. Fluoride occurs naturally in Australian water supplies, but the levels are too low in most places to prevent tooth decay.

Dr. Dickson-Swift said that in some towns, fluoride is not added since it is at maximum levels. Most water suppliers in Australia adjust fluoride quantities to levels that can protect against tooth decay. The researcher said that, on average, close to 90% of communities in the country have access to fluoridated water but access for individuals outside metropolitan areas is lower.

Fluoridation is a cost-effective public health intervention

Dr. Dickson-Swift stated that community-based water fluoridation is a successful and cost-effective public health intervention with overwhelming scientific evidence and is endorsed by organizations like the World Health Organization and the Australian Dental Association. It provides population-wide benefits but especially benefits children and those with lower incomes with higher rates of tooth decay and less access to dental treatment.

While state governments are responsible for water fluoridation in Australia, local governments can advocate for it in their Municipal Public Health and Well-being Plan.

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