11.02.20

The Secretary of State Matt Hancock has confirmed plans for radical NHS reforms which include proposals to remove the barriers to water fluoridation schemes in the UK. The proposals are welcomed by the Oral Health Foundation who have been lobbying for water fluoridation to be extended for many years.  If implemented this will help ease the process of water fluoridation for local communities and give the oral health of the nation a much needed boost.

The addition of fluoride to water has been researched for over 75 years, and water fluoridation has been proven to reduce decay by 35%1. Fluoride can greatly help dental health by strengthening the tooth enamel, making it more resistant to tooth decay.

The draft bill, entitled ‘Integration and Innovation: working together to improve health and social care for all’, lays out plans for the government to take responsibility for the funding and implementation of water fluoridation, putting it in a position to drive forward and implement schemes.

Currently, some six million people in the UK receive a fluoridated water supply.  Those in areas with fluoridated water have be shown to have lower rates of decay than those without.

At present decisions on water fluoridation sit within the powers of local authorities.  There has been little progress in expanding the UK’s adoption of water fluoridation since the late 1980s.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, Chief Executive of the Oral Health Foundation, believes central government taking responsibility for implementation and costs of water fluoridation by central government could have a profound impact on the UK’s oral health. 

Dr Carter says: “In recent years we have seen water fluoridation proposals repeatedly stall at local authority level due to high cost, competing demands, and limited budgets. All the while, tooth decay continues to be the most common chronic disease in the country.  

“Children’s oral health also continues to suffer.  Tooth extractions, most of which caused by decay, remains the most common reason for hospital admissions of five-to-nine year-olds in the UK.  Yet this is a totally preventable disease. 

“Tooth decay comes at a tremendous cost to the economy.  Around two million people in the UK have taken time of work in the last five years due to poor oral health, at a cost to businesses of more than £35m a year.

“As a dental practitioner in Birmingham I saw first-hand the benefits to children’s oral health of water fluoridation.  Working on the borders of fluoridated Birmingham and the then non-fluoridated Sandwell we could tell which side of the dividing road children came from based solely on their decay experience.

“We believe that water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure there is for reducing oral health inequalities and tooth decay rates, especially amongst children. We welcome these proposals and believe they represent an opportunity to take a big step forward in not only improving this generation’s oral health, but those for decades to come.

“We wait in anticipation for progress to be made towards that goal but while we do, we would encourage everyone to brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. This gives your teeth the boost of fluoride that they need.”

For more information on the benefits of fluoride check out our A - Z of Oral Health Information section of our website.


References

  1. Iheozor-Ejiofor Z, Worthington HV, Walsh T, O'Malley L, Clarkson JE, Macey R, Alam R, Tugwell P, Welch V, Glenny A. Water fluoridation for the prevention of dental caries. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD010856. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD010856.pub2