No adverse effects of early fluoride exposure on child development

An Australian nationwide population-based follow-up study published in the Journal of Dental Research (JDR) provided evidence that exposure to fluoridated water by young children was not negatively associated with a child’s emotional, behavioral, and executive functioning development in adolescence.

The study by Professor Loc Do of the University of Queensland’s School of Health and Behavioral Sciences, School of Dentistry and colleagues examined the effect of early childhood exposures to fluoridation of water on measures of school-age executive functioning and emotional and behavioral development in a population. sample based. This longitudinal follow-up study used information from the Australian National Children’s Oral Health Study from 2012-14. Children aged 5 to 10 at the start were contacted again after 7 to 8 years, before reaching the age of 18.

The percentage of lifetime exposed to fluoridated water (%LEFW) from birth to age five was estimated from residential history and postcode-level fluoride levels in public tap water. Measures of children’s emotional and behavioral development were assessed by the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and executive functioning was measured by the Behavior Inventory of Executive Functioning (BRIEF). Multivariate regression models were generated to compare associations between exposure and primary outcomes, controlling for covariates. An equivalence test was also performed to compare the main results of those who had 100% LEFW to those who had 0% LEFW.

A sensitivity analysis was also performed. A total of 2,682 children completed the SDQ and BRIEF, with mean scores of 7.0 (95% CI: 6.6, 7.4) and 45.3 (44.7, 45.8), respectively. Those with a lower %LEFW tended to have lower SDQ and BRIEF scores. Multivariate regression models reported no association between fluoridated water exposure and SDQ and BRIEF scores. Low household income, identifying as Aboriginal, and having a neurodevelopmental diagnosis were associated with lower SDQ/BRIEF scores.

The study concluded that exposure to fluoridated water in the first five years of life was not associated with impaired measures of child emotional and behavioral development and executive functioning. Children who had been exposed to fluoridated water throughout early childhood had their measures of emotional, behavioral, and executive functioning at least equivalent to those of children who had not been exposed to fluoridated water.

“Water fluoridation is unquestionably effective in preventing dental caries, and this study is an important addition to the body of literature documenting the safety of water fluoridation,” said the president of the IADR, Brian O’Connell, Dean of Health Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. “The IADR recently reaffirmed its support for water fluoridation because this public health measure has a high benefit/cost ratio and benefits disadvantaged communities the most, thereby reducing health inequities.”

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Material provided by International Association for Dental Research. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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