Wakefield Council considering water fluoridation to cut tooth decay

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Fluoride could be added to the district’s drinking water to cut growing levels of tooth decay in children as young as three.

Wakefield Council has been advised to consider the move after research showed 40 per cent of five-year-olds and one in five three-year-olds had decayed teeth.

The district’s rates of tooth decay are above average, and the problem is more likely to affect people from deprived backgrounds.

Water fluoridation, which was last considered for the district in 2007, has been controversial in some parts of the country, where it met a backlash from campaigners who said it could be harmful to health.

But a report to the council’s Caring For Our People overview and scrutiny committee (OSC) said the latest evidence showed fluoridation was safe and would reduce tooth decay.

The Oral Health Needs Assessment said: “It is recommended that Wakefield Council OSC reconsider a local water fluoridation scheme in order to improve the oral health of the children in the district.

“It is likely that it would close the inequality gap of oral health between the richest and poorest children across Wakefield.”

The report said five-year-olds in Wakefield were one and a half times more likely to have tooth decay than the rest of England.

It said: “There is also some evidence that the oral health of five-year-olds in Wakefield compared to the rest of England may have got worse over the last five years.

“In a 2013 survey one in five Wakefield three-year-olds had any decayed teeth.

“This was the highest rate across all Yorkshire and Humber local authorities.”

Between a quarter and a third of the district’s school children reported drinking fizzy drinks every day, and more than a quarter ate confectionary daily.

The report said: “With more than half the adult and child population in Wakefield meeting none of the nutritional guidelines for fat, saturated fat, fibre, fruit, vegetables and protein, there is a high risk for tooth decay, oral cancer and other chronic diseases, negatively impacting oral health.

“Food poverty is an increasing issue in the borough and likely to worsen people’s diet and nutritional intake, which in turn will negatively impact oral health.”

Public Health England (PHE) published latest fluoridation research in March 2014.

The report added: “Given the recent PHE report that provides evidence to support the claim that water fluoridation is safe and effective, the quality of the evidence has improved since Wakefield OSC reviewed this issue in 2007.”

Calcium fluoride occurs naturally in most water supplies but falls short of the amount deemed to helpful to oral health.

It is artificially added to tap water in a handful of local authority areas.

Fluoridation has been rejected by most European countries, but in the US around 70 per cent of people drink fluoridated water.