Government backing for water fluoridation

Water fluoridation has been given a resounding vote of confidence in a new report published by Public Health England (PHE).

The report shows that tooth decay is less common where water supplies are fluoridated – and children are far less likely to need hospital admission to deal with dental disease. Nor do the findings, published yesterday (25 March), show any evidence that fluoridation is harmful to health.

The document, titled Water fluoridation: health monitoring report for England 2014 hails water fluoridation as a ‘safe and effective public health measure’.

Its most striking statistic relates to the number of children aged between one and four being admitted to hospital for tooth decay – primarily for extractions under general anaesthetic.

Almost half (45%) as many children in fluoridated areas need hospital admission compared to their counterparts in non-fluoridated areas.

Taking other important oral health factors (such as deprivation and ethnicity) into account, the report points to reduced rates of decay for children of all age groups in fluoridated areas.

The most pronounced difference appeared in children living in the most deprived areas of the UK.

Furthermore, the report says there is no evidence that fluoridated water supplies are harmful to health. PHE found no differences between the rates of hip fracture, osteosarcoma (a form of bone cancer), cancer, Down’s syndrome births or all-cause mortality (all recorded causes of death) in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.

The PHE report has been welcomed by the British Dental Association (BDA), which claimed earlier this month that widespread water fluoridation could save the NHS at least £4 million per year.

The BDA’s scientific adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said: ‘The report is a timely reminder of the significant role that fluoridation plays in reducing tooth decay, which remains a significant health problem in England.

‘It also emphasises the important role it plays in alleviating the misery of dental general anaesthesia in children.’

Sue Gregory, director of dental public health at PHE, said: ‘These findings highlight the important contribution that water fluoridation makes to children’s dental health and general wellbeing.’

The full report is available here.

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