NHS England throws its support behind water fluoridation movement

NHS England supporting water fluoridationNHS England is signalling strongly for community water fluoridation. It believes this is the optimum intervention to improve the oral health of children. And also to tackle health inequalities among disadvantaged communities.

The new impetus is also receiving full support from the Community Water Fluoridation (CWF) network. It is pressing for targeted water fluoridation in areas of high need. Dr Simon Hearnshaw, speaking for the CWF network, says that the latest unprecedented support from government inspires optimism that the first new scheme in a generation could get the go-ahead.

Health minister Jo Churchill referenced water fluoridation in the House of Commons. She was responding to a written question about plans for improving children’s oral health. Meanwhile, Sir Paul Beresford, Conservative MP for the Mole Valley, and a dentist, gave a powerful speech in favour of community water fluoridation in Westminster.

Water fluoridation impacts

The NHS England website includes new content with a page dedicated to dental care and fluoridation. According to NHS England, if five-year-olds with the most tooth decay drank fluoridated water they would have 28% less tooth decay and be 45-68% less likely to need teeth removed in hospital.

Dr Hearnshaw, chair of the Local Professional Network (LPN) in Hull, says: ‘NHS England is making the same case made by us and Public Health England. The whole philosophical thrust is towards the prevention of disease. In relation to dental decay, fluoridation is the most effective and cost-effective measure.’

He welcomed the recognition on the new NHS England web page that support for community water fluoridation schemes at a local level by NHS representatives is important. Dr Hearnshaw believes this is a reference to the co-commissioning of feasibility studies by local authorities working with the NHS to provide a strong strategic and collaborative lead.

The CWF network would like NHS England to go one step further. It would like the NHS to fund the recurring costs of water fluoridation. It would benefit from the associated reduction in child hospital admissions for tooth extractions. Estimates show this to be as much as £50m annually in the UK.

Dr Hearnshaw continued: ‘We have some way to go. Last month the USA celebrated 75 years of community water fluoridation. They have around 70% coverage, compared to only around 10% in the UK. All around the world countries are adopting new water fluoridation schemes. We have not seen a new scheme in the UK since 1985.’