The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) recently published a report into the benefits of water fluoridation in reducing tooth decay amongst young people. This 2022 monitoring report compares data on the health of people living in areas of England with varying concentrations of fluoride in their drinking water supply; OHID, on behalf of the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has a legal duty to monitor the effects of water fluoridation schemes on health and report on it every four years.
Results from the report include:
- Five-year-olds in areas with higher fluoride concentrations were less likely to experience dental caries, and less likely to experience severe dental caries, than in areas with low fluoride concentrations.
- Five-year-olds in areas with a fluoridation scheme in place were less likely to experience dental caries than in areas without a scheme.
- Children and young people in areas with higher fluoride concentrations were less likely to be admitted to hospital to have teeth removed (due to decay) than in areas with low fluoride concentrations.
- Children and young people in areas with a fluoridation scheme in place were less likely to be admitted to hospital to have teeth removed (due to decay) than in areas without a scheme.
- These effects were seen at all levels of deprivation, but children and young people in the most deprived areas benefitted the most.
In response, Matthew Garrett, dean of the Faculty of Dental Surgery (FDS) at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said, “The Faculty of Dental Surgery supports the introduction of water fluoridation. It is a safe and effective public health measure to reduce dental decay and inequalities in dental health.1
“Today’s report provides further evidence for this. It finds that children and young people in areas in England with higher fluoride concentrations were up to 63 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital for tooth extractions due to decay than those in areas with low fluoride concentrations. In the most deprived 20 per cent of areas, the chance of five-year old children having cavities - or holes in their teeth - was 25 per cent lower in areas with a fluoridation scheme than in areas without.
“Nearly a quarter of five-year-olds experience dental caries and around 38,000 children and young people have teeth removed (due to decay) in hospital every year. Yet only 10 per cent of the population in England lives in areas with fluoridation schemes. We urge the government to use the Health and Care Bill to expand water fluoridation schemes across the country, to reduce inequalities in children’s oral health.”
Meanwhile, Neil Carmichael, chair of the Association of Dental Groups, added, “It is widely accepted that water fluoridation is one of the most effective measures that can be taken to prevent dental disease, but only a tenth of England has access to fluoridated water. We welcome this monitoring report on water fluoridation as confirmation that further expansion of schemes will help “level up” the country’s oral health and we will support the government in its plans to expand schemes.”
“Whilst water fluoridation holds out hope for future generations, it will not solve the immediate crisis in access to NHS dentistry and pain being suffered by patients waiting for care in many of the same deprived parts of England. This will only be resolved by urgently recruiting more dentists from home and abroad and reforming the broken NHS contract.”