Lifetime exposure to community water fluoridation and associations with key indicators of health in community-dwelling adults aged 50 years and over in Ireland

The main aim of this project is to provide evidence that informs future policy about water fluoridation in Ireland. Community water fluoridation has existed in Ireland since 1964, so it is important to examine any association between long term exposure to water fluoridation and general health status. Such an assessment is a requirement under Section 6 of the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960. It is widely acknowledged that community water fluoridation helps to prevent tooth decay, preventing considerable illness, pain and suffering as well as saving money for families and for the health care system. Despite its effectiveness as a public health measure, water fluoridation continues to generate debate in the community and among public representatives. The Irish Longitudinal Study of Ageing (TILDA) gathers detailed social and health information on adults aged over 50 years and has also recorded their past residential addresses. The TILDA participants are representative of older Irish adults so any research involving this group will provide a good understanding of the risks and benefits of fluoridation. This project proposes to find out how long individual participants have been exposed to a fluoridated water supply by mapping their current and past residential addresses and using the location to determine the fluoridation status of the water supply to each address. The length of exposure to community water fluoridation for each individual will be matched to the prevalence of certain health problems, such as osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, loss of cognitive function and thyroid disease, which were measured in the TILDA sample. It will not be able to determine causality only association, if any. This study will establish a framework by which the effects of fluoridation can be monitored. The results will provide essential data to inform health policy and the public debate about water fluoridation.


Award Date
24 February 2017
Award Value
Principal Investigator
Professor Brian O'Connell
Host Institution
Dublin Dental University Hospital
Applied Partnership Awards