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Cost Savings of Community Water Fluoridation

Two published studies conducted by CDC reaffirm the cost benefits of community water fluoridation. Together, the studies continue to show that widespread community water fluoridation prevents cavities and saves money, both for families and the health care system. In fact, the economic analysis found that for larger communities of more than 20,000 people where it costs about 50 cents per person to fluoridate the water, every $1 invested in this preventive measure yields approximately $38 savings in dental treatment costs.

"An Economic Evaluation of Community Water Fluoridation"1 presents the results of an economic analysis of water fluoridation under modern conditions of widespread availability of fluorides. Researchers from CDC and Terry College of Business, University of Georgia, found that under typical conditions, the annual per-person cost savings in fluoridated communities ranged from $16 in very small communities (<5,000) to nearly $19 for larger communities (>20,000). The analysis takes into account the costs of installing and maintaining necessary equipment and operating water plants, the expected effectiveness of fluoridation, estimates of expected cavities in non-fluoridated communities, treatment of cavities, and time lost visiting the dentist for treatment.

A related analysis found that children living in non-fluoridated communities in states that are highly fluoridated receive partial benefits of fluoridation from eating foods and drinking beverages processed in fluoridated communities. This second study, "Quantifying the Diffused Benefit from Water Fluoridation"2 reports that 12-year-old children living in states where more than half of the communities have fluoridated water have 26% fewer decayed tooth surfaces per year than 12-year-old children living in states where less than one-quarter of the communities are fluoridated.

"Widespread community water fluoridation prevents cavities even in neighboring communities that are not fluoridated," according to Dr. Susan Griffin, the study's main author. "For instance, a 12-year-old child who has lived in a non-fluoridated community in a highly fluoridated state would typically have one fewer cavity than a child in a low-fluoridated state."

Additional Resources

Griffin SO, Jones K, Tomar SL. An economic evaluation of community water fluoridation. J Publ Health Dent 2001;61(2):78–86. View abstract on PubMed.

Griffin SO, Gooch BF, Lockwood SA, Tomar SL. Quantifying the diffused benefit from water fluoridation in the United States. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 2001;29:120–129. View abstract on PubMed.

Related Link

Recommendations for Using Fluoride to Prevent and Control Dental Caries in the United States. MMWR, Vol. 50, No. RR14;1-42. (August 17, 2001)

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