NHS told to consider fluoridation

Government has urged the NHS to consider fluoridating tap water to reduce tooth decay in the UK's most deprived areas.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced that £14m of funding a year will be made available over the next three years for Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) to introduce fluoridation schemes – but local communities must be consulted first.

Only a handful of areas currently add fluoride to water, including Birmingham where ministers said children have the half the cases of tooth decay as children in non-fluoridated Manchester.

Mr Johnson said: “Fluoridation is scientifically supported, it is legal, and it is our policy, but only two or three areas currently have it and we need to go much further in areas where dental health needs to be improved.

“It is an effective and relatively easy way to help address health inequalities – giving children from poorer backgrounds a dental health boost that can last a lifetime.”

Excess amounts of fluoride can cause fluorosis – a condition which causes white flecks on tooth enamel, or in severe cases, brown stains.

However, the British Dental Association, which has welcomed the announcement, said the levels added to water should not be high enough to have this effect.

A spokesperson told edie: “Anecdotally, dentists say that the fluorosis is more likely to arise from using ‘adult’ toothpaste on children (which contains more fluoride), children being allowed to swallow toothpaste or too much paste being used. The dose of fluoride added to water is very low.”

The Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management called for more research into fluoridation and better monitoring of natural levels in water.

Executive director Nick Reeves said: “Fluoridation is a complex issue, bringing concerns about how the Government uses its power to impose mass medication on the public.”

Kate Martin

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