The cost of publicly financed dental care in relation to community water fluoridation in Texas
Dental caries lead to children being less ready to learn and results in diminished productivity in the classroom. Tooth decay causes pain and infection, leading to impaired chewing, speech, and facial expression, in addition to a loss in self-esteem. There have been many studies supporting the safety and efficacy of community water fluoridation in reducing dental caries. Water fluoridation has been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century. The decline in the prevalence and severity of tooth decay in the United States during the past 60 years has been attributed largely to the increased use of fluoride; in particular, the widespread utilization of community water fluoridation. However, in the decades since fluoridation was first introduced, reductions in dental caries have declined, most likely due to the presence of other sources of fluoride. Questions have been raised regarding the need to continue to fluoridate community water supplies in the face of possible excessive exposure to fluoride. Nevertheless, dental caries continue to be a significant public health burden throughout the world, including the United States, especially among low-income and disadvantaged populations. Although many poor children receive their dental care through Medicaid, the percentage of Texas children with untreated dental caries continues to exceed the U.S. average and is well above Healthy People 2010 goals, even as state Medicaid expenditures continue to rise. The objective of this study is to determine the relationship between Medicaid dental expenditures and community water fluoridation levels in Texas counties. By examining this relationship, the cost-effectiveness of community water fluoridation in the Texas pediatric Medicaid beneficiary population, as measured by publicly financed dental care expenditures, may be ascertained.
0573: Public health
0630: Public policy