Community water fluoridation is the adjustment of fluoride in drinking water to reach a level that can help to reduce tooth decay.
In Australia, community water fluoridation programs are considered a safe and effective way of reducing tooth decay across the population. Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems in Australia. It can cause pain, difficulty eating and sleeping, and may make people feel unhappy about their appearance. In Australia, dental health has improved since water fluoridation began in the 1950s. Compared to their parents’ generation, Australians born after 1970 (when the majority of water fluoridation programs commenced in Australia) have about half the level of tooth decay.1
Along with a healthy diet, good oral hygiene, appropriate use of fluoridated toothpaste and regular dental check-ups, water fluoridation is an effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.
Have your say
NHMRC has released its Draft Public Statement 2017: Water fluoridation and human health in Australia (draft 2017 Public Statement) for public consultation. This contains NHMRC’s recommendation on community water fluoridation, and a proposed range within which NHMRC supports states and territories fluoridating their drinking water supplies. It reflects the latest evidence on the potential link between water fluoridation and human health relevant to Australia.
To provide feedback on the draft 2017 Public Statement visit the NHMRC Public Consultation Portal. Consultation is open until 3 August 2017.
Latest evidence on water fluoridation and human health in Australia
After a thorough review of the latest scientific research on the potential link between water fluoridation and human health relevant to Australia, NHMRC concludes that community water fluoridation helps to reduce tooth decay. There is no reliable evidence that water fluoridation at current Australian levels causes health problems.
The Information Paper – Water fluoridation: dental and other human health outcomes (Information Paper) presents the key findings of the evidence reviewed and assesses how relevant these findings are for Australia.
For more information about the development processes for the resources above refer to the Administrative Report.
The Fluoride Reference Group - a committee of health, dental and other experts, such as those with expertise in epidemiology, ethics and water management - guided this work.
Fluoride Reference Group
NHMRC established the Fluoride Reference Group to guide the evaluation of the evidence on the potential health effects of water fluoridation. The Fluoride Reference Group considered the outcomes of the evidence evaluation and advised on how relevant these findings are for Australia. This is important as studies from overseas countries may have much higher levels of fluoride than levels used in Australia. The group also used the findings to provide advice on the Information Paper, which provides a summary of the evidence evaluation and its key findings.
For further information please contact NHMRC at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following describes the key activities and events that led to the revision of the NHMRC Public Statement.
1. Assessing the evidence and developing the Information Paper
|Fluoride Reference Group established||May 2014|
Public call for evidence
|23 July – 22 August 2014|
|Evidence evaluation completed||Early 2016|
Drafting of the Information Paper – Water fluoridation: dental and other human health outcomes
|May – August 2016|
Findings of the evidence evaluation published in:
|14 September 2016|
Public consultation on draft Information Paper
|14 September - 13 October 2016|
|Expert review of the Information Paper||7 February – 7 March 2017|
|Final Information Paper issued||4 July 2017|
2. Developing a new Public Statement
Drafting of the 2017 Public Statement
|November 2016 – June 2017|
Public consultation on draft 2017 Public Statement
|4 July – 3 August 2017|
|Final 2017 Public Statement issued||Late 2017|
2007 NHMRC Review
In 2006, NHMRC undertook a systematic review of the evidence for the efficacy and safety of fluoride interventions. This review focused on sources that could be used to deliver fluoride to the Australian community including drinking water, milk, salt and topical fluoride treatments. The review considered possible benefits and harms of these different sources of fluoride. The full reports are A Systematic Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Fluoridation Part A and A Systematic Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Fluoridation Part B.
NHMRC’s 2016 Evidence Evaluation includes and builds on the 2007 NHMRC review.
As a result of the 2007 Systematic Review, NHMRC released the NHMRC Public Statement: The Efficacy and Safety of Fluoridation 2007 (2007 Public Statement). Until the 2017 Public Statement is finalised, this is NHMRC’s current position on water fluoridation.