17 Feb

Dental charity backs plans for water fluoridation as part of NHS reforms

The Oral Health Foundation is backing plans for improved access to fluoridated water as part of wide-ranging NHS reforms. 

Recently, the secretary of state for health and social care, Matt Hancock, announced plans to reform the NHS, revealing a raft of measures and initiatives that would be introduced to make systems more efficient, promote preventative programmes and improve cohesiveness between health provision and social care. Among the measures is a proposal to eliminate barriers, which currently restrict access to fluoridated water in the UK. 

The Oral Health Foundation has been lobbying for fluoridation in the UK for many years. If proposals to remove barriers are approved, this could pave the way for millions more people in the UK to receive fluoridated water, a move, which could be hugely beneficial for the oral health of the nation. At the moment, around 6 million people receive fluoridated water and research suggests that people in these areas are less susceptible to dental decay.

Dr Nigel Carter OBE, chief executive of the Oral Health Foundation, suggested that switching power from local authorities to central government could facilitate access to fluoridated water for millions of people across the country. At a local level, Dr Carter explained, there have been delays and obstacles that have prevented authorities from approving and moving forward with plans to add fluoride to communal water supplies. Having worked in Birmingham, an area that receives fluoridated water, Dr Carter said that the benefits are clear to see. 

Fluoride protects the enamel, reducing the risk of decay. At a time when decay is the most common cause of hospital admissions among children in the UK and there is a risk of oral health standards slipping due to the impact of the pandemic, improving access to fluoridated water could make a significant difference. Dr Carter said that he is waiting “in anticipation” for further news and encouraged everyone to use fluoride toothpaste in the meantime to keep teeth healthy and strong.