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Put fluoride in all water supplies; LETTERS.

I CONGRATULATE the Daily Post on highlighting the shocking state of children' teeth in North Wales (April 16), with almost half of children under 5 having tooth decay. The problem is proportionally worse for children from poor backgrounds. This adds up to a picture of pain, misery and a loss of self esteem, hundreds of general anaesthetics, lost working days for parents, and a waste of precious NHS money that could be put to better use.

It is not necessary - dental disease is preventable.

The Welsh Government's 'Designed to Smile' programme has started in North Wales. It includes tooth brushing, healthy eating and drinking, dental screening and fluoride varnish applications. There is need for a radical solution, which will make a dramatic impact on children's dental health and will be particularly effective in raising the standard of teeth of the very poorest children, bringing them up to the levels enjoyed by the more affluent. This measure is fluoridation of water supplies.

Is it safe? Yes, fluoride is present in all water supplies and in some parts of the UK it occurs naturally at a level of 1 part per million. Fluoridation schemes increase the level to 1 part per million. There has been long experience of such schemes in the USA [since 1944], Republic of Ireland [1960s] and the West Midlands [1980s]. All schemes have been closely monitored and there has been no evidence of any adverse health effects.

Does it work? Yes, where fluoridation has been introduced there has been a dramatic reduction in children's tooth decay, particularly for the poorest children, bringing their dental health up to the levels of children in the most affluent areas. The Republic of Ireland [mainly fluoridated] has up to 50% less tooth decay than in Northern Ireland [non-fluoridated].

Here in North Wales the benefits of fluoridation have been proved. In 1964 water supplies on Anglesey were fluoridated at 1 part per million. A study in 1987 showed that the children on Anglesey had 65% less tooth decay than on mainland Gwynedd. Significantly the teeth of the poorest children were as healthy as those in the most affluent parts of the UK.

To their lasting shame Welsh Water stopped fluoridating in 1992 (at the time they had the legal power to do this). Now the teeth of the children of Anglesey are as bad as elsewhere in North Wales.

So, there is a radical and cost effective solution to achieve a significant reduction in children's tooth decay in North Wales. It is surely not too much to ask people to agree a measure which harms nobody, and prevents much pain and suffering to children.

Huw Thomas (formerly Chief Executive, Gwynedd Health Authority).

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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 26, 2012
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