22 MAR 2018

Following the publication today of the ‘Water fluoridation: health monitoring in England 2018' report by Public Health England (PHE), leading health charity, the Oral Health Foundation, are calling on local authorities to use it as a springboard to introduce water fluoridation schemes and help address the children's oral health crisis being experienced in England.

Shockingly tooth decay is the number one reason why young children are admitted to hospital in England, with recent figures from the Local Government Association (LGA), revealing that there were nearly 40,000 hospital operations to remove unhealthy teeth in children in the last year. 

This is part of a wider children's dental health crisis in England, where more than one in ten (12%) three-year olds suffer from tooth decay, increasing to a quarter (25%) of five-year-olds. What is more worrying is that this rises to half of all five-year olds in the worst affected local authority areas.

The Oral Health Foundation believes the report from PHE demonstrates how the introduction of water fluoridation can dramatically decrease the number of children suffering from tooth decay, reduce the huge inequalities that exist and improve the lives of millions across the UK. 

The main findings from the report are:

  • 5-year-olds in areas with water fluoridation schemes were 23% less likely to suffer from tooth decay in the least deprived areas and 52% less likely in the most deprived areas.
  • The chances of a child having teeth removed in hospital because of decay was significantly lower in areas with water fluoridation schemes.
  • Children from all areas benefited from water fluoridation, with children from the most deprived areas benefitting the most.
  • There was no evidence of higher rates of hip fractures, Down's syndrome, kidney stones, bladder cancer, or osteosarcoma (a cancer of the bone) in areas with water fluoridation schemes.

Speaking about the new report, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter OBE, said: "This is an exciting and comprehensive report from PHE which shows how water fluoridation is a highly effective, and safe, way of significantly reducing dental health inequalities across England and will reduce cases of childhood tooth decay across the country.

"Almost all cases of tooth decay are completely preventable, by introducing water fluoridation schemes local authorities can make a significant impact on reducing the childhood dental health crisis in Britain and reduce the needless pain and suffering of tens of thousands of children every year.

"The single biggest improvement to the oral health of Britain in recent years came with the introduction of fluoride in toothpastes and that can be eclipsed further with more water fluoridation schemes. 

"During my time as a dentist in Birmingham, I witnessed first-hand the huge benefits of water fluoridation, with children from Birmingham, which had water with added fluoride, having little or no decay and their neighbours from then un-fluoridated Sandwell experiencing significantly higher levels of decay, I could literally tell which side of the road they lived on by looking at their teeth.

"In terms of finding cost-effective ways to improve the oral health of people in the UK, I strongly believe there are few better solutions than nationwide water fluoridation." 

The Water fluoridation: health monitoring report for England 2018 report is available to view online with the next report due by March 2022 at the latest.

Regarding the latest report, Professor John Newton, Director of Health Improvement at PHE, said: "The evidence in this report shows water fluoridation is a safe and effective method to reduce tooth decay, especially among deprived communities. 

"We would encourage local authorities to consider this evidence carefully when deciding on their plans to improve dental health in their areas."

Fluoride can greatly help dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay. It also reduces the amount of acid that the bacteria on your teeth produce. For more information on Fluoride and the benefits it can have on your oral health visit www.dentalhealth.org/tell-me-about/topic/sundry/fluoride.