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Water fluoridation - is it time?

Posted in General Health 31 Mar, 2014

With the recent calls being made by government health officials for the introduction of water fluoridation, this blog will look at the potential effects that such a move could have on our health.

Currently, there are only a limited number of areas in the UK where the process of water fluoridation is active. Both Birmingham and Eastern England are two of the areas where water fluoridation is operational and roughly effects up to 6 million people. However, there are a further 500 000 people who also live in areas that receive a water supply which naturally contains fluoride.

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that can be found in various amount of water depending on the area where you live in the UK. Fluoride can also be found in various types of drinks and foods, such as tea and fish.

What are the benefits?

The most significant known benefit of fluoride is that it toughens the surface of the teeth and helps to prevent tooth decay. It was in the early 20th century that such and observation was made, and since then, fluoride has continually been added to toothpastes.

Public Health England’s (the organsisation leading for the implementation of water fluoridation) recent report provides information and evidence for why water fluoridation should become the norm in England. PHE complied a report on dental health regarding 12 year olds in fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas and found that:

“On average, there are 11% fewer 12-year olds with tooth decay in fluoridated areas than non-fluoridated areas.” PHE also found that: “In fluoridated areas there are 45% fewer hospital admissions of children aged one to four for dental caries (mostly for extraction of decayed teeth under a general anaesthetic) than in non-fluoridated areas.” However, perhaps the most significant find from PHE’s report could actually be that: “There was evidence that the rate of kidney stones was lower in fluoridated areas than non-fluoridated areas.”

With such findings from their research, Public Health England conclude that: “The report provides further reassurance that water fluoridation is a safe and effective public health measure.” The complete report can be read here.

When will water fluoridation happen?

Although we have seen the numerous benefits associated with water fluoridation, we are still at the early stages of a wider scale implementation of water fluoridation in the UK, as opponents to the scheme argue that it is actually sodium fluoride that is added to the water, which, in large amounts, can be poisonous. Once such claims are completely proven to be baseless in the case of water fluoridation, can we begin to see the major water suppliers trust PHE findings and allow for water fluoridation to take place.

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