The purpose of the SALTF study is to determine the feasibility of using fluoridated salt to help prevent early childhood tooth decay or caries for residents of a small, rural and primarily Latino town in California's Central Valley.
Fluoride is a mineral that helps prevent and repair tooth decay. Many communities in the United States use water fluoridation to help improve dental health, and such community water fluoridation has been heralded as one of the top 10 Public Health Achievements in the 20th century by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, in many locations, especially rural areas, it is not feasible or cost effective to fluoridate the community water supply. In addition, previous research has found that certain populations do not drink tap water.
When compared to other population groups in the U.S., many Latinos have disproportionately high rates of dental caries. This is especially the case among young children and in farmworker families. People in towns in the Central Valley generally experience extensive tooth decay and have poor access to fluoridated water.
When water fluoridation is not an option for giving communities access to fluoride, researchers and policy makers have explored other methods of introducing fluoride to the general population such as adding fluoride to table salt. Switzerland has used salt fluoridation for more than fifty years; more recently, Mexico and some Central and South American countries have also turned to salt fluoridation.
The SALTF study involves qualitative research aimed at learning how town residents use salt, identifying the sources of salt in their diet, understanding their beliefs about the health effects or benefits from giving salt to their children, and gauging their opinions about salt fluoridation. Researchers conducted one-on-one interviews with local residents (primarily mothers of young children) and people interested in salt fluoridation (e.g., physicians, dentists, civic leaders, restaurant owners, grocery store managers, etc.) for one to two hours at a time. Focus groups were then convened (mostly with mothers but including one comprised just of fathers) to seek greater detail and discussion and to gauge the degree of consensus around certain issues.
Findings from this study were presented at the American Public Health Association meeting in November 2013. Click here to read more.