High resolution mapping of reticulated water fluoride in Western Australia: opportunities to improve oral health
Background: Drinking water with an optimum fluoride concentration is a recognized effective method to reduce dental decay. Methods: In this study normal suppliers of drinking water in Western Australia provided map data regarding the distribution of their supplies and the locations of their test points. These data were collated into a single unified map of Western Australian water supplies and fluoride levels. It is clear that the effect of prevention in regionally isolated communities is significant as the cost of providing service is anywhere between 2 and 4 times higher than that in high density regions. Results: The current study found that although a very significant proportion of the population has access to water with fluoride concentrations that would be caries protective, most of these are large urban centre based. Conclusions: Those with high burdens of dental disease are mostly residential in rural and remote areas where water is either not fluoridated, nor regulated, or low in fluoride. However, it is acknowledged that water fluoridation, for many reasons, is not always feasible in rural and remote communities, and preventive efforts through alternative sources of fluoride (e.g. toothpaste) should be considered, even if less effective at community level.