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Dental report backs fluoridation of Cumbria water supplies

Children living in areas where fluoride is added to water supplies suffer less tooth decay, according to a new national report.

Dr Nigel Carter photo
Dr Nigel Carter

The issue has long caused controversy across west Cumbria, where fluoride has been added to water from Cornhow and Ennerdale treatment works since the late 1960s.

The process was halted in 2006 for equipment upgrades, but recently restarted.

However anti-fluoride campaigners want it stopped – saying it can lead to an unsightly tooth condition known as dental fluorosis, where the enamel of the teeth can become marked or discoloured. They also question whether it really prevents tooth decay.

But Public Health England (PHE) has published a report showing that children in local authorities with water fluoridation schemes have less tooth decay than those without.

It states that as many as 45 per cent fewer children, aged between one and four, were admitted to hospital for tooth decay in fluoridated areas than non-fluoridated areas.

The study looked primarily at those children who had teeth removed under a general anaesthetic as a result of decay.

It also found that 28 per cent fewer five-year-olds had tooth decay in fluoridated areas, and 21 per cent fewer 12-year-olds. This reduction appeared greatest among those living in the most deprived local authorities.

The report also said there was no evidence of harm to health in fluoridated areas after looking at rates of hip fractures, osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer), cancers overall, Down’s Syndrome births and wider death rates. It also found that rates of kidney stones and bladder cancer were lower in fluoridated areas, but said this could be down to other factors.

PHE said the report provides further reassurance that water fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure.

Sue Gregory, director of dental public health, added: “These findings highlight the important contribution that water fluoridation makes to children’s dental health and general well-being.

“It is notable that the benefits of this public health measure appear to be greatest for children living in the most deprived areas of the country.

“This is significant for reducing the large differences we see in dental health between deprived and more affluent areas of the country.”

The organisation must legally produce a report like this every four years on behalf of the health secretary.

Nigel Carter, chief executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, welcomed the latest results and said he hoped they would put an end to the debate surrounding water fluoridation. He is now calling on the Government to introduce fluoride to more areas.

However another study, by a team from Manchester University, into the effects of fluoridation on nine-month and five-year-old children in west Cumbria is continuing. It is being funded by a £1.5m grant and will run for six years, involving people living in affected areas.

The Cornhow works supply water to most of Workington, Seaton, High Harrington and Great Clifton, the coastal areas from Silloth, through Maryport to Flimby, and inland to Cockermouth.

Much of Copeland gets its water from Ennerdale, along with Salterbeck.

Have your say

@Pete , So many things wrong.
• Saying Emeritus Prof isn't evidence. Especially without a name so it can be checked.
• "Synthetic" chemicals? As opposed to what? Natuaral chemicals? The reason we even know that flouride is good for teeth is that in areas where flouride levels are naturally high in spring water, dental health was observed to be better than in areas with low flouride.
• The stuff about the flouride dumbing people down is completely untrue and evidence free.
• Water doesn't contain vitamins and pesticides do not remove minerals.
• People's teeth rot for a variety of reasons. Flouride is proven as an effective way to reduce dental decay.
• There really are not "all sorts of nasties in tap water". Really.

Posted by Bob T on 9 April 2014 at 14:07

Flouride in the levels given for water fluoridation is way below anything detrimental to health. In some parts of the world, natural fluroide levels are far above that which artificial additions are given at and it still poses no risk to health.

Yes, there's moral implications about adding supplements to the water supply, but if its harmless to health, yet provides measurable and proven benefits to dental hygiene, there's very little reason to oppose it. (Especially as fluorosis is nothing more than an aesthetic condition.)

Instead of reading links from organisations with an axe to grind regarding fluoridation, I suggest people get their facts from neutral sources or, even better, learn the science yourself.

Wikipedia entry (very comprehensive):

Skeptics dictionary:

British Medical Journal:

Posted by Dagsannr on 8 April 2014 at 08:05

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