The tap water of Kuopio, Finland, was fluoridated from 1959 to1992. In the first decade of fluoridation, children in Kuopio had lower DMF values than children in Jyväskylä, a nearby low-fluoride town, but later differences between the towns have been small and inconsistent. The present study aimed to gain further insight into caries occurrence in Kuopio and Jyväskylä using longitudinal tooth-specific data from public health records on cohorts born in 1970/71 and 1980/81 (total n = 1,503). Survival analyses were used to summarize the tooth-specific times elapsed between eruption and the first filling (used as a proxy for dental caries). Generally, the first filling was placed sooner after eruption in the 1970/71 cohort than in the 1980/81 cohort. The curves for the two towns were virtually identical except for the first molars of the 1970/71 cohort, for which the percentage of filled first molars was consistently lower in Jyväskylä than in Kuopio. This study indicates that, among children and adolescents whose permanent teeth erupted in the mid-1970s or thereafter, even a longitudinal approach did not reveal a lower caries occurrence in the fluoridated than in the low-fluoride reference community. The main reason for the modest effect of water fluoridation in Finnish circumstances is probably the widespread use of other measures for caries prevention. The children have been exposed to such intense efforts to increase tooth resistance that the effect of water fluoridation does not show up any more. The results must not be extrapolated to countries with less intensive preventive dental care.
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