06 Oct

Fluoride set to be added to UK water supplies to reduce tooth decay

Fluoride is set to be added to UK water supplies in a bid to reduce the risk of tooth decay. The move comes after the chief medical officers of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland agreed that adding fluoride to drinking water would prevent cavities.

Research conducted by Public Health England suggests that fluoridated water supplies could reduce the prevalence of cavities by 17% in children living in affluent areas and up to 28% among children living in the poorest parts of the country. 

England’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and his counterparts across the UK released an evidence review, which indicated that adding fluoride could make a hugely positive difference to the oral health of children, particularly those living in deprived areas. They also stressed that the research had unveiled no dangers related to the use of fluoride and dismissed links to health issues, including an elevated risk of cancer. The chief medical officers strongly condemned suggestions of associations with health risks, describing them as “exaggerated and unevidenced.”

The four medical officers concluded that adding fluoride to UK water could help to close gaps in oral health inequality, which currently exist between wealthy and poor parts of the country. The evidence review stated that there is “strong evidence that water fluoridation is an effective public health intervention for reducing the prevalence of tooth decay and improving dental health equality across the UK.”

Tooth decay is the most common cause of hospital admission for children in the UK. In 2019, 23.4% of five-year-olds in England and 26.5% of five-year-olds in Scotland had signs of decayed teeth. 

At present, local authorities are in charge of making decisions related to adding fluoride to municipal water supplies. Under new guidelines, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, will have the power to introduce national measures, which would mean that all areas had access to fluoridated water. Approximately 5.8 million people have access to fluoridated water in England at the moment.