Fluoride or no fluoride that is the question!

There has been great debate about whether UK water should be fluoridated recently with the UK government being in favour of adding fluoride to the majority of water supplies in the UK. Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance in all water supplies which – at the right level – can reduce tooth decay. In most parts of the UK, the natural fluoride content of water is below this level, so it is of little or no benefit to teeth. But it is possible, through a process called ‘fluoridation’, to top up the natural fluoride in water to the optimum level for dental health.

This is not new, in the 1930s it was noticed where that there was naturally occurring high levels of fluoride in the water supply that tooth decay levels were low. Dental scientists observed remarkably low decay rates among people whose water supplies contained significant amounts of natural fluoride. Several studies conducted during the 1940s and 1950s confirmed that when a small amount of fluoride is added to the community water supply, decay rates among residents of that community decrease. Although these studies focused primarily on the benefits of water fluoridation for children, more recent studies demonstrate that decay rates in adults are also reduced as a result of fluoride in the drinking water. Birmingham has been fluoridated since 1964 and has shown to be beneficial in the reduction of tooth decay with no adverse affects.

Water fluoridation (fluoride in water) prevents tooth decay two ways: primarily through direct contact with teeth throughout life, and when consumed by children during the tooth forming years. The most inexpensive way to deliver the benefits of fluoride to all residents of a community is through water fluoridation. All water naturally contains some fluoride. When a community fluoridates its water, it adjusts the level of fluoride in the water to the optimal level for preventing tooth decay. Currently, more than 170 million people in the United States using public water supplies drink water containing enough fluoride to protect teeth. Today there are about 300 million people all over the world benefiting from water fluoridation. Fluoride toothpaste is used by about 450 million people, and about 60 million use fluoridated salt. So over billion people around the world now benefit from fluorides.

Fluoridation of water is an effective public health strategy for reducing tooth decay in the population. The evidence accumulated over many years shows fluoride is highly protective to the teeth of children, and is very safe. Water fluoridation is one of the most effective ways of reducing tooth decay in the community. Not only does water fluoridation reduce tooth decay and consequently the number of extractions needed, but it also brings the added and welcome benefit of a reduction in the number of general anaesthetics administered to children.

Water fluoridation has been supported by the British Dental Association, British Medical Association, American Dental Association and the World Health Organisation to mention only a few. The British Medical Association believes there is no convincing evidence of any adverse risk to human health by the introduction of water fluoridation. Evidence through scientific studies supports that. This view is backed by the World Health Organisation, the Royal College of Physicians, and the British Dental Association, among others.

It is a process I support and perhaps we should consider it locally?