Health Secretary Alan Johnson is to call for fluoride to be added to Britain’s water supplies – and the move has the backing of the British Dental Association (BDA).
The announcement is expected tomorrow (Tuesday).
The government sees fluoridation as an ‘effective and relatively easy way’ to reduce tooth decay among children.
And the BDA adds weight to the proposal, saying that targeted water fluoridation helps fight against tooth decay, especially among poorer children.
But the controversial plan will upset anti-fluoridation groups who argue that excessive fluoride has links to bone cancer and brittle bone disease as well as causing dental fluorosis – discolouring of the teeth and pitting of the enamel.
Six million people in England, mainly in north east England and the West Midlands, receive water with added fluoride.
Three British water companies currently add fluoride to water to supplies: Severn Trent, Northumbrian and Anglian.
But the government is keen to expand that across the country.
Mr Johnson will tell MPs that fluoridation will ‘help address health inequalities, giving children from poorer backgrounds a dental health boost that can last a lifetime’.
In support of the proposal, the Department of Health says children in Manchester, who receive no added fluoride in their water, are twice as likely to have tooth decay as youngsters in Birmingham, where fluoride has been added for four decades.
In 2003, MPs approved legislation to make it easier for fluoride to be added to drinking water in England and Wales.
Few water companies have done so for fear of legal action by anti-fluoride campaigners.
A spokesman for National Pure Water Association said: ‘By presenting fluoridation as a means of preventing tooth decay, Health Secretary Alan Johnson confirms the practice is medication.
‘Fluoridation is carried out by water companies in violation of their customers’ human right to refuse consent to any medical intervention.’