Fluoride plan for Durham water supplies 'will spare children painful dental work,' claim health chiefs
Children could be spared ‘traumatic, painful’ dental work if council bosses get the greenlight for a major public health project, it has been claimed.
Leaders at Durham County Council (DCC) are working on plans to add fluoride to water supplies in a bid to slash the number of youngsters and adults who have to be treated for tooth decay.
And the potential impact of the £250,000-a-year scheme has already been seen, with parts of the county already benefiting from fluoridated water seeing significantly better oral health than others.
“Tooth decay is the most common oral disease affecting children in England and it’s plainly preventable,” said Coun Olwyn Gunn, the county council’s cabinet member for children and young people.
“Children are undergoing traumatic, painful procedures and are being exposed to risks that could be prevented.
“Those families in our more deprived communities would benefit the most with a reduction in unacceptable inequalities and I fully support this council progressing with the next stages.”
Coun Gunn was speaking at a cabinet meeting on October 16, which agreed to push ahead with the scheme and a public consultation on the proposals.
Coun Lucy Hovvels, cabinet member for adult and health services, also backed the plans, adding: “Poor oral health can affect someone’s ability to eat, sleep, smile and socialise normally.”
If final approval is granted, Public Health England will pay the £4.125million up front cost of implementing the scheme and DCC will pay £250,000 a year to treat water supplies for the county, expect Derwentside, which already receives it, and parts of Barnard Castle and Teesdale, where the Teesside local authorities are responsible for water supplies.
According to a report for councillors, more than a quarter of five-year-olds in County Durham suffered tooth decay in 2016/17, more than both the regional and national average.
A 2012 study found this number was as high as 61 per cent in the council’s Woodhouse Close division, in Bishop Auckland.
In Peterlee East, one of the county’s most deprived areas, it was 47% – but fell to just 16 per cent in the Delves area of Derwentside, which has similar levels of deprivation but already has access to fluoridated drinking water.
Five-year-olds in fluoridated areas are 15% less likely to suffer tooth decay than non-fluoridated areas, while every £1 spent on fluoridation is expected to save £21.98 over 10 years.