According to a study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Globalization and Health, fluoride toothpaste is expensive for the world’s poorest people. Researchers report that the poorest populations of developing countries have the least access to affordable toothpaste.

The study was conducted by a team that included Ann Goldman of the School of Public Health and Health Services at the George Washington University in Washington; Robert Yee and Christopher Holmgren of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center at Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen, Netherlands; and Habib Benzian of the FDI World Dental Federation. The researchers compared the relative affordability of fluoride toothpaste in 48 countries.

The researchers report that fluoride toothpaste is the most widely used method of preventing dental decay, but currently only 12.5% of the world benefits from it. The researchers believe that the low use of fluoride toothpaste is due to its cost. In the study, questionnaires regarding the cost of fluoride toothpaste were completed by dental associations, non-government oral health organizations, and individuals around the world. The cost of 1 year’s worth of toothpaste for one person was calculated as both a proportion of household expenditure and in terms of the number of days of work needed to cover the cost.

The results showed that in different income groups in various countries, as the per capita income decreased, the proportion of income needed to purchase a year’s supply of toothpaste increased; the poorest in each country being the hardest hit.

“Because of the importance of fluoride toothpaste in preventing tooth decay, it must be made more available to the world’s poorest populations,” said Goldman. “Steps should be taken to make fluoride toothpaste more affordable and more accessible.”

The authors suggest that this can be done by exempting fluoride toothpaste from taxation, encouraging the local manufacture of fluoride toothpaste and persuading multinational manufacturers to implement different pricing policies for poorer countries.

To read the study, visit www.globalizationandhealth.com/content/4/1/7.

[BioMed Central, June 13, 2008]