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IS THIS HOW TO STOP THE ROT?; The appalling condition of Scots' teeth has led to fresh calls to add fluoride to water.

MANY Scots are too ashamed to smile - in case they reveal mouths full of rotting teeth.

Fizzy drinks, sweets and bad dental hygiene have produced a nation with terrible tooth decay.

Now the Scottish Executive believe adding fluoride to our tap water is the only way to stop the rot.

But the proposal has divided health watchdogs over the safety of tampering with our water supplies.

Parts of England have had fluoridated water for decades and boast a dramatic drop in tooth decay.

But those against fluoridation say it comes at a price.

They complain that too much fluoride causes dental fluorosis, which makes teeth brittle and leads to unsightly mottling.

And they point to studies which suggest fluoride may be linked to conditions such as hip fractures and bone cancers and may interfere with the functioning of the thyroid gland.

Yet dentists, used to treating Scots children with severe tooth decay, believe fluoridating water is the most cost- effective way to improve the nation's dental health.

With the worst diet in Europe, it is no coincidence that Scots also have the worst teeth. By the age of three, more than 60 per cent of Scots children from areas of severe deprivation have dental decay.

By five, 55 per cent of all children are affected, compared with 30 per cent in the Netherlands and 29 per cent in Denmark.

In the face of such statistics, there is growing pressure to follow America, New Zealand, Spain, Ireland and parts of Britain, and add fluoride to water.

Alternatively, the Executive could add fluoride to milk given to children at school and nursery.

They could also provide vulnerable youngsters, most of whom live in deprived areas, with free toothbrushes and fluoride toothpaste.

Fluoride supplements could also be used, although this would not be enough to prevent tooth decay in some deprived sections of the community where, in many cases, people just don't clean their teeth.

Middle-class children, generally, do not suffer the same levels of decay as their parents are more fastidious in instilling dental hygiene.

The British Medical Association, British Dental Association and World Health Organisation all back the scheme.

But opposition remains fierce and campaigners claim the pros of fluoridation are outweighed by the cons.

It is not the first time the issue of fluoridation in Scotland has caused an outcry.

Twenty years ago, Scotland's biggest local council was forced to stop plans to put fluoride in the water supply by a toothless granny.

Catherine McColl, of Glasgow, launched the case against Strathclyde Regional Council at the Court of Session in 1978 and it turned into the longest- running civil action in Scottish history. In a pounds 1million landmark test case, Mrs McColl argued that the council was exceeding its legal authority by attempting to inject fluoride into the water supplies.

After 201 days, Lord Jauncey ruled that while fluoridation might be desirable, Strathclyde did not have the powers to carry it out.

Then aged 68, Mrs McColl, who has since died, said: "I'd rather be toothless than die of some dreadful side- effect fluoride may carry."

Twenty years on, the debate still rages on, dividing public opinion.

The Executive's oral health consultation document will be published tomorrow and will remain neutral because ministers are concerned about the scale of the public backlash.

But one thing remains certain - those against the idea will not be slow to bare their teeth.

lToothpaste made from crushed beetle and crab shells has been developed by researchers at Portsmouth University.

The animal particles bond with a bacterial-killing drug and lodge in infection- prone parts of the mouth.

ARE WE DEALING WITH PREVENTION OR POISON?

YES

Says Glasgow dentist Frazer Murphy

IF any place in the world should have it, it should be Scotland.

In some areas of England that have fluoridation, dentists do not see decay in children and think it is a thing of the past.

But Scotland still has an epidemic, especially the West of Scotland, where many children never get their teeth brushed at all.

Some are given a bottle of fizzy juice in the morning. The acid and sugar burn teeth away. If water was fluoridated, these children would at least get some protection.

You can't make it optional because the people who need it most would still not get it.

It is soul-destroying to remove teeth from children.

The people bleating about side-effects don't realise you require a much higher dose than you would get in water.

NO

Says James Gibb Stuart, of Pure Water Ass.

THE material they propose to fluoridate with is highly toxic and carcinogenic.

It contains impurities such as lead and arsenic and they never make any attempt to purify the stuff before they put it into the water.

I maintain that anything which is ingested into the body must be of medicinal purity, yet the Government is brazenly proposing to put an undiluted, unpurified solution into our water supply.

We have struggled to understand why they want do this and can only reckon there is pressure from big chemical industries who have mountains of fluoride to dispose of.

Fluoridation does not help those who have bad dental hygiene habits anyway.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Sep 23, 2002
Words:865
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