Nottinghamshire councillors seek expansion of water fluoridation programme

25 March 2024

Councillors, public health directors and healthcare providers have been working together in an effort to expand the water fluoridation scheme across Nottinghamshire County and the city.

As part of the drive to expand water fluoridation to the whole of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, John Doddy, co-chair of the Nottinghamshire Health and Wellbeing Board, and Jonathan Gribbin, a director of public health, hand-delivered a letter on behalf of all the partners, to the Department of Health and Social Care in London. The letter sought approval from the secretary of state for the extension of the water fluoridation scheme.

John said, “I am committed to working with our partners locally, including the Integrated Care Board and Severn Trent Water, to improve the oral health of our local population. Too many people need to go to the hospital to have teeth extracted because of decay, and this includes young children. This should not be happening, particularly when we have the means to do something about it.

“Introducing or expanding a water fluoridation scheme requires approval from the secretary of state for health and social care, and on behalf of our partners, Jonathan Gribbin and I have hand-delivered a letter to the Department for Health and Social Care, which has been co-signed by partners, asking for the scheme to be extended across the city and the county.”

Water fluoridation has been shown to reduce the likelihood and extent of tooth decay in both adults and children. In Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, children’s dental health is worse than in many other parts of the country.

Tooth decay is the most common reason children between the ages of six and ten are admitted to hospitals in the UK. Across the city and county, there is an annual average of over 750 hospital admissions for tooth extractions in children and young people.

Some parts of the county are already covered by water fluoridation schemes, while other areas and Nottingham City are not. This means that a large proportion of the population does not benefit from the protection fluoridation provides to their teeth simply because of where they live.

The partnership believes that expanding the water fluoridation scheme to cover the city and the whole county will ensure that everyone has equal access to a key public health measure that supports good oral health.

Linda Woodings, co-chair of Nottingham City Health and Wellbeing Board, said, “The health of our teeth is important for all of us, as it affects what we eat, how we communicate and our self-confidence.

“Tooth decay and poor oral health remain a serious issue, but by taking preventive action by adding fluoride to drinking water, we can help to significantly reduce tooth cavities. This can lead to fewer admissions into hospital for tooth extractions, help reduce the number of missed days off school and work, and support people later in life to stay independent for longer.

“We remain committed to working with our partners to reduce the risks of decay and alongside other interventions, fluoridation of water can be an effective measure that can help improve oral health, benefitting all.”

All water contains low levels of fluoride in varying amounts. In Nottinghamshire, the level of fluoride occurring naturally in water is low. Water fluoridation involves adjusting the level of fluoride in water to one part per million, which is best for dental health, strengthening teeth and keeping them healthy.

It is estimated that introducing fluoride into drinking water will significantly reduce the number of decayed, missing, and filled teeth in five-year-olds and increase the number of five-year-olds with no tooth decay at all, as well as reduce the number of children admitted to hospital for tooth extraction surgery.

Kathy McLean, chair of the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Integrated Care Partnership, said, “We want to do everything we can to prevent ill health so people can live healthier lives for as long as possible. This is one of our key principles as health and care organisations working together. The effect of fluoridation on reducing rates of hospital admission for tooth extraction is substantial, with the impact being greatest for those from more deprived areas.”

If the secretary of state agrees to explore the expansion of the current water fluoridation schemes, a detailed feasibility study will be undertaken by the water company and an extensive public consultation with all stakeholders would take place.