Kids in Calgary have more cavities than children in Edmonton, and a new study suggestions the difference could be blamed on a lack of fluoride in tap water.
Researchers at the University of Alberta and Alberta Health Services compared teeth from 5,000 Grade 2 children who usually drank tap water in the province's two largest cities. Calgary eliminated fluoride from its water supply in 2011, but Edmonton has not.
In a study published Wednesday, researchers compared samples from 2004-2005 and 2013-2014, and found that it's likely the lack of fluoride that left kids in Calgary with more tooth decay.
A study found that kids in Calgary, where the water has no fluoride, had more tooth decay than children in Edmonton. (Photo: Gettystock)
Tooth decay increased in both cities over time, but Calgary showed worse results. The number of surfaces with tooth decay increased by 2.1 in Edmonton, and 3.8 in Calgary.
Since 2005, more than 30 Canadian cities have stopped adding fluoride to their drinking water after concern from groups about potential health risks.
Fluoride benefits teeth by preventing plaque and keeping them strong, the study states, but data about the long-term effects of removing fluoride from water was not well-established when Calgary made its decision.
"We systematically considered a number of other factors ... and in the end, everything pointed to fluoridation cessation being the most important factor."
Steven Patterson, one of the study's investigators, pointed to fluoridation as the reason for the disparity in the two cities' results since not much else has changed in the two cities.
However, the general decline in dental health can be blamed on poorer nutrition, drinking bottled water — which contains little to no fluoride — and possibly a lack of access to dental care, he told the Journal.
Researchers said the study's findings show a “statistically significant difference," reported Global News.
Lindsay McLaren, the study's lead author, told CBC News the cause and effect relationship in Edmonton and Calgary is clear.
"We systematically considered a number of other factors ... and in the end, everything pointed to fluoridation cessation being the most important factor," she said.
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