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Study Estimates Dental Costs from Water Fluoridation Cessation in Juneau, Alaska

A recently published study estimated the dental costs from water fluoridation cessation in Juneau, Alaska. In 2007, Juneau voted to stop putting fluoride in their drinking water, and the new study from University of Alaska Anchorage assessed Medicaid dental claim billing records for two groups of children and adolescents aged 18 or under. The study found an increase of one dental cavity annually for children under six years of age after cessation and estimated a ballpark cost of more than $300 per child. The effect was less for age groups other than the 0-6 age group but every age group experience higher levels of cavities.

More research of this type is needed in drinking water, especially when additional treatment is installed in a community for compliance with a new regulation, or to validate the national estimate of public health benefits from national regulations. For example, have communities in the Southwest seen a decrease in cancer rates due to arsenic removal treatment? Has the national incidence of bladder cancer changed with the Stage 1 and Stage 2 Disinfection By-Products Rules (DBPRs)? Validating the estimates of public health benefits of past regulations would potentially provide support for new regulations in the future. This type of research is complicated and expensive, but it’s critical as communities make investments (many of them significant investments) to comply with regulations.