Millions of people are about to have fluoride added to their drinking water after Britain’s chief medical officers decided that it would help reduce tooth decay.
Chris Whitty the chief medical officer for England, and his counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland cited estimates by Public Health England that adding more fluoride to water supplies would reduce cavities by 17% among the richest children and 28% among the poorest.
Whitty dismissed safety concerns saying there is no evidence that fluoride causes cancer and condemned “exaggerated and unevidenced” suggestions about its potential health risks.
Sajid Javid, the health secretary, is understood to be keen to press ahead with adding the mineral to the water supply and will gain powers to do so across England under laws going through parliament.
The Guardian reports: In an evidence review published on Thursday, the medical officers concluded: “As with all things in medicine and public health there is a balance of risk and benefit. There is unquestionably an issue with tooth decay in the UK and an entrenched inequality which needs to be addressed. Fluoridation of water can reduce this common problem.
“On balance, there is strong scientific 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. It should be seen as a complementary strategy, not a substitute for other effective methods of increasing fluoride use.”
Tooth decay is the biggest cause of hospitalisation for children aged from five to nine. In the 2019 school year, 23.4% of five-year-olds in England and 26.5% of four- to five-year-olds in Scotland had experienced damage to their teeth.
Local authorities are now responsible for deciding whether to add fluoride to local water supplies.
The health bill going before MPs will give Sajid Javid, the health secretary, the power to order fluoridation across the country. However, any move towards centralisation is not expected soon.
Javid tweeted a link to the chief medical officer’s conclusions and wrote: “Good to see UK CMOs examining how water fluoridation can improve oral health & prevent tooth decay which disproportionately affects more deprived groups. Reinforces why our health and care bill will make it simpler to expand water fluoridation schemes.”
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