RESEARCH published by Public Health England has found that in areas with water fluoridation schemes 45 per cent fewer children aged one to four are admitted to hospital for tooth decay.
Taking into account deprivation and ethnicity (both known factors in dental health) the PHE study also reports that 28 per cent fewer five-year-olds and 21 per cent fewer 12-year-olds have tooth decay in fluoridated areas compared to non-fluoridated areas.
The effect was found in local authorities with water fluoridation schemes where the level of fluoride is adjusted to 1 part per million.
The report also found no evidence of harm to health – with no difference detected between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas in rates of hip fracture, osteosarcoma, cancers overall, Down’s syndrome births or all-cause mortality (all recorded causes of death).
Rates of kidney stones and bladder cancer were lower in fluoridated areas than non-fluoridated areas but the PHE report cautions that this should not be interpreted as a 'protective effect' from fluoridated water, as the lower rates may be due to other factors or chance.
The report was welcomed by the British Dental Association. BDA Scientific Adviser, Professor Damien Walmsley, said: "The report is a timely reminder of the significant role that fluoridation plays in reducing tooth decay which remains a significant health problem in England.
"It also emphasises the important role it plays in alleviating the misery of dental general anaesthesia in children.
"When tooth decay is a preventable disease, it’s depressing that so many children in England – at least 25,000 last year – have such extensive tooth decay that they need to have this procedure.
"Undergoing such an operation at a tender age can lead to life-long anxiety about having dental treatment, and so perpetuates a cycle of avoiding dental care until emergency treatment is required."