BACKGROUND: Dental caries (tooth decay) is one of the most common chronic childhood diseases. Caries prevalence in most industrialised countries has declined among children over the past few decades. The probable reasons for the decline are the widespread use of fluoride toothpaste, followed by artificial water fluoridation, oral health education and a slight decrease in sugar consumption overall. However, in regions without water fluoridation, fluoride supplementation for pregnant women may be an effective way to increase fluoride intake during pregnancy. If fluoride supplements taken by pregnant women improve neonatal outcomes, pregnant women with no access to a fluoridated drinking water supply can obtain the benefits of systemic fluoridation.
OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects of women taking fluoride supplements (tablets, drops, lozenges or chewing gum) compared with no fluoride supplementation during pregnancy to prevent caries in the primary teeth of their children.
SEARCH METHODS: Cochrane Oral Health's Information Specialist searched the following databases: Cochrane Oral Health's Trials Register (to 25 January 2017); the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL; 2016, Issue 11) in the Cochrane Library (searched 25 January 2017); MEDLINE Ovid (1946 to 25 January 2017); Embase Ovid (1980 to 25 January 2017); LILACS BIREME Virtual Health Library (Latin American and Caribbean Health Science Information database; 1982 to 25 January 2017); and CINAHL EBSCO (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature; 1937 to 25 January 2017). We searched the US National Institutes of Health Ongoing Trials Register ( and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform for ongoing trials to 25 January 2017. No restrictions were placed on the language or date of publication when searching the electronic databases.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of fluoride supplements (tablets, drops, lozenges or chewing gum) administered to women during pregnancy with the aim of preventing caries in the primary teeth of their children.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently screened the titles and abstracts (when available) of all reports identified through electronic searches. Two review authors independently extracted data and assessed risk of bias, as well as evaluating overall quality of the evidence utilising the GRADE approach. We could not conduct data synthesis as only one study was included in the analysis.
MAIN RESULTS: Only one RCT met the inclusion criteria for this review. This RCT showed no statistical difference on decayed or filled primary tooth surfaces (dfs) and the percentage of children with caries at 3 years (risk ratio (RR) 1.46, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.75 to 2.85; participants = 938, very low quality of evidence) and 5 years old (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.33; participants = 798, very low quality of evidence). The incidence of fluorosis at 5 years was similar between the group taking fluoride supplements (tablets) during the last 6 months of pregnancy and the placebo group.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: There is no evidence that fluoride supplements taken by women during pregnancy are effective in preventing dental caries in their offspring.