We must all hope plans to fluoridate water in Hull go ahead, Michael Watson says.
Hull City Council is looking at the possibility of introducing water fluoridation.
A decision should be made this month on whether to proceed and if so a full public consultation will take place.
The city council has said the proposals are just one element of Hull’s oral health plan, which also includes a significant amount of work already underway to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks and snacks and encourage regular tooth brushing with a fluoride-based toothpaste.
In a letter to the Times, Eddie Crouch, vice-chairman of the British Dental Association, who practises in fluoridated Birmingham, said that Birmingham’s scheme had resulted in local five-year-olds now having a third less tooth decay than their counterparts in Manchester.
He said this prevention in action has helped to prevent tens of thousands of children from having to endure unnecessary pain and distress — and has saved the NHS millions of pounds.
If the scheme goes ahead in Hull it will be the first since the council in Southampton withdrew from a scheme to fluoridate its water.
At that time John Spottiswoode, chairman of Hampshire Against Fluoridation, which had campaigned against the scheme there, described the decision not to proceed as ‘excellent news’.
It is however debatable whether Southampton children and their parents felt the same way after figures showed a deterioration in the levels of tooth decay.
In Southampton, where a third of five-year-olds have obvious signs of tooth decay, the council was opposed to fluoridation and since public health is now a matter for local authorities, it had the upper hand.
It looks to be a very different picture in Hull so there are grounds for some optimism.
However, the anti-fluoridation lobby are strong and have been effective in preventing other areas from joining the West Midlands in bringing in this public health measure.
Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, who has long been an opponent, wrote in the Times that neither the effectiveness nor safety of fluoride had been conclusively proved.
He was rebutted in a letter from Paul Langmaid, former chief dental officer for Wales, who quoted a study, published in the BDJ, showing that, after the cessation of fluoridation in Anglesey, by Welsh Water, an increase in tooth decay for five-year-old children of some 168% was observed.
It is amazing that such a public health measure, proven across the world to be effective, should arouse such irrational opposition.
At a time when the public is rightly concerned at the number of children who end up in hospital as a result of dental decay, we must all hope that the scheme in Hull goes ahead.