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The benefit of fluoride in drinking water 08-09-2015

Over the years there has been much debate about fluoride levels in drinking water. Across areas, some water supplies are altered by water boards to ensure they contain a specific level. But should we really be interfering with fluoride levels, and water is the impact for our teeth and wider health?

This August the British Dental Health Foundation reported on new research into the impact of fluoride in drinking water, and what this could possibly mean for us as a nation. The research, which was published in the journal of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, found that fluoridated water could significantly benefit children’s oral health, therefore leading to a reduction in childhood tooth extraction. Importantly the study also found that the addition of fluoride to water had no negative effects on childhood health.

Tooth decay is the top reason why primary school aged children are admitted to hospital. Currently the NHS spends approximately £30 million per year on tooth extractions for children when tooth decay has reached the point of no return. The current research suggests that, were it the case that fluoride levels in drinking water were altered to meet the optimum level, the NHS could benefit significantly financially by a huge reduction in the number of tooth extractions needed. The research found that in areas where fluoridation schemes were in place, there were 55% fewer admissions for tooth extractions in comparison to those were there were no fluoridation schemes. In addition, it was found that there were no negative health effects for children in these areas.

Fluoride can help our teeth due to its ability to strengthen our tooth enamel. This makes our teeth more resistant to tooth decay, and reduces the amount of acid that bacteria our teeth produce. There has been much debate over the years, and despite the formulation of fluoride toothpastes which are now readily available on the market, only approximately 12% of the UK’s population currently live in areas where there is fluoridated water.

Ben Atkins, Clinical Director or Revive Dental Care and trustee of the British Dental Health Foundation spoke positively about these recent findings: ‘Countless reports have been published throughout the world about fluoride. After many years, the scientific conclusion is that fluoride toothpaste and correctly fluoridated water are of great benefit to dental health, help reduce decay and cause no harmful side effects to general health’. Atkins went on to speak about the current crisis in children’s oral health, and how ‘decisive action’ regarding steps to improve this needs to be taken. Fluoridation schemes, as suggested by this research, may be the answer.

For more information and details of the research paper, please visit the British Dental Health Foundation website.

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