Fluoride helps combat cavities. Still, in some circles the tooth-friendly chemical that is used in community water systems across the country has been refuted and labeled as an all-talk approach. As though research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was inadequate, a new analysis from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Dentistry confirmed that appropriate fluoride use is extremely effective in fighting dental caries (cavities).
The study, developed by the staff of the VA Office of Dentistry and published in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association, highlighted an inverse relationship between fluoride performance measures (PM) and the need for restorative work among patients at a high risk for tooth decay.
"These findings demonstrate the success of a large clinical care system in increasing delivery of preventative care to patients with high caries-development risk by using widespread educational interventions and a quality PM," the study leaders told Dr. Bicuspid.
The VA Office of Dentistry had long noticed that the problem of tooth decay was all too prevalent. After all, cavities are almost entirely preventable, though if teeth and gums are not taken care of, decay can surface bad breath and other oral health issues.
Preventive could replace restorative
In an effort to reduce caries among veterans, the VA Office of Dentistry started implementing the fluoride PM on October 1, 2008. After recognizing which patients were high-risk - defined as those who had two or more single-tooth restorations within the past year - the patients received either a professional fluoride application or a prescription for it.
Researchers analyzed the dental comprehensive care each fiscal year from 2005 though 2012. During the first quarter of the fiscal year 2008, only half of the demographic were provided with fluoride treatment; that percentage rose to 75 percent during the same quarter of the following year. And by the fourth quarter of 2012, 94 percent of these patients were given fluoride.
Overall, the percentage of patients who needed cavity treatments by dentists or other restorative work dropped.
The takeaway? More preventive steps taken means less restorative treatment needed.
Without tooth decay, people stand a lower chance of encountering problems from bad breath to gum inflammation, which is triggered by the same thing that causes cavities: plaque and acids.
"Although the results may have questionable clinical impact on an individual basis, the system-wide clinical implications make these results extremely significant, both statistically and clinically," the researchers concluded.
Today, 90 percent of high-risk VA patients are still receiving fluoride.