Attitudes to water fluoridation in South Africa 1998. Part I. Analysis by age, sex, population and province.
The successful implementation of water fluoridation (WF) depends upon support from the public. A survey was conducted in 1998 by the Human Sciences Research Council to assess attitudes of the South African population towards WF. A representative sample of 2,220 persons over the age of 18 years was interviewed. Questions relating to current knowledge, sources of information, the purpose of water fluoridation and its desirability as a public health measure were put to respondents. Only 25% of the population had heard or read of WF. The major sources of information were the electronic and printed media (40% and 27% respectively), while 2.5% heard about it from dentists. Just over a third of the sample (35.5%) identified the purpose of WF as protecting teeth from decay; 28% said it was to purify water and 28.5% were uncertain of, or did not know its purpose. Nearly two-thirds (61.9%) indicated that fluoride should be added to drinking water if it can reduce tooth decay, while 9% were not in favour and 29% were uncertain. The results suggest that most people do not know what WF is or does, though most were in agreement that it should be implemented to reduce tooth decay.