Mass Medication or Easy Way to Improve Oral Health? the Water Fluoridation Debate Continues; It's a Controversial Question Which Rears Its Head Every Few Years - Should Wales Fluoridate the Water Supply to Improve Notoriously Poor Dental Health? Health Wales Brought Together Two Views from Either Side of the Argument

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 9, 2012 | Go to article overview

Mass Medication or Easy Way to Improve Oral Health? the Water Fluoridation Debate Continues; It's a Controversial Question Which Rears Its Head Every Few Years - Should Wales Fluoridate the Water Supply to Improve Notoriously Poor Dental Health? Health Wales Brought Together Two Views from Either Side of the Argument


YES HUW THOMAS, WAS CHIEF EXECUTIVE OF THE FORMER GWYNEDD HEALTH AUTHORITY BETWEEN 1979 AND 1996. HE BELIEVES THE WATER SUPPLY SHOULD BE FLUORIDATED TO IMPROVE ORAL HEALTH EVEN now I can remember the pitiless expression on the faces of the chairman and board members of Welsh Water as they announced to representatives of the Gwynedd Health Authority on February 19, 1992, that they had decided to stop fluoridation of water supplies on Anglesey.

Their main reason was that, although they had a civil indemnity from the Department of Health, they demanded a criminal indemnity - not something any government can grant. As a private company they did not have a public body duty, and it was not in the interests of their shareholders.

This decision condemned future generations of children on Anglesey to greater levels of tooth decay, pain, suffering and unnecessary general anaesthetics.

Fluoridation of water supplies had been introduced on Anglesey in 1964. It had a dramatic effect on tooth decay among children. Levels of dental health are measured by counting the number of decayed, missing and filled teeth (DMF rate). In 1987, the DMF rate on Anglesey was 0.8 compared to 2.3 in mainland Gwynedd.

Anglesey children had some of the healthiest teeth in the UK, in spite of living in a relatively economically deprived area. At the time Holyhead was ranked the 13th most deprived area in the UK, yet the teeth of the children in the town were comparable with the most affluent areas of the south east of England.

Five years after fluoridation was stopped, the levels of tooth decay had deteriorated to the same level as the mainland - 2.14 DMF. In Holyhead, 30% of five-year-old children suffered from toothache and 17% had dental extractions under general anaesthetic.

For the 27 years that Anglesey had fluoridated water, there was constant monitoring of the general health of the population to identify if there were any harmful effects of fluoridation on general health. There were none.

The indicators showed that, in all respects apart from dental health, the general health of the people of Anglesey was comparable with that of mainland Gwynedd.

An independent opinion poll held on Anglesey showed 69% approved of fluoridation and, significantly, the approval rating by young households containing young children was 83%. The National Assembly's children and young people's committee recently held an inquiry into children's oral health, reviewing the progress on the Designed to Smile initiative, which started in January 2009.

It is disappointing the committee politely kicked the issue of fluoridation of water into touch with the words "keeping under review".

Health Minister Lesley Griffiths has acknowledged "the scientific evidence supports the case for water fluoridation as having significant health benefits" but that "there are no plans to do so at the moment".

Why this timidity? Why the refusal even to examine the issue of water fluoridation? Fluoride occurs naturally in all water. In some parts of the world, including the UK, it occurs naturally at one part per million (ppm).

Studies in the USA in the 1940s showed fluoridated water gave significant protection against tooth decay. The first plan to increase the level to 1ppm was started in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1965. Since then the benefits of water fluoridation now cover 64% of the population of the US. In Australia it is 61%.

It is safe - many studies have been undertaken, showing it has no adverse effects on general health.

We can learn from our neighbours.

In Ireland, 71% of the population receive fluoridated water. There is no fluoridation in Northern Ireland. The levels of tooth decay in the republic are 30% to 50% lower than in the north. Cross-border studies show no difference in other conditions, such as cancer rates. Almost four million people in the West Midlands receive fluoridated water, where children have some of the best dental health in Britain, even in the most deprived areas. …

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Mass Medication or Easy Way to Improve Oral Health? the Water Fluoridation Debate Continues; It's a Controversial Question Which Rears Its Head Every Few Years - Should Wales Fluoridate the Water Supply to Improve Notoriously Poor Dental Health? Health Wales Brought Together Two Views from Either Side of the Argument
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