A new study of Canadian soldiers finds that those who had lived in areas with community water fluoridation (CWF) experienced a lower rate of tooth decay than their peers from non-CWF areas. The study was based on the dental records of more than 24,000 newly inducted soldiers of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Researchers determined the number of decayed, missing and filled surfaces (DMFS) of teeth for these soldiers. After adjusting for age and gender, recruits from CWF areas had a considerably lower average of DMFS.
This study, published by the Canadian Journal of Public Health, echoes a 2003 study in Australia. The Australian researchers reviewed dental examinations and other health records for 499 adults who were recruited by the army. Adults with a lifetime exposure to fluoridated water had a rate of decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMFT) that was 26% lower than the rate of those with no exposure to fluoridated water.
Military leaders in the United States have long been concerned about the oral health of newly recruited or drafted soldiers. During a 10-month period leading to our nation’s entry into World War II, the Army found that nearly 1 in 11 inductees it examined was disqualified because of poor dental health — a rate that “far exceeded all expectations.” Military officials were so worried about this problem that they decided in 1941 to include dentists on local induction boards.
This experience is a significant reason why the U.S. Department of Defense issued a 2011 memorandum ordering all military bases to fluoridate their drinking water. The Department’s memo called tooth decay “a significant reason” why some newly inducted soldiers are classified as non-deployable for military service. This memo added: “Providing optimally fluoridated water is a proven disease prevention program that improves and sustains the military readiness and health of military personnel.” The Defense Department order applies to all bases that own or operate a water treatment system serving at least 3,300 personnel.
The findings from the Canadian study reinforce the wisdom of the order issued by U.S. military leaders.