By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
A local doctor and councillor is campaigning for fluoride to be added to all tap water in Nottinghamshire to help prevent tooth decay.
Councillor Dr John Doddy, who is also Chairman of the Health & Wellbeing Board at Nottinghamshire County Council, said he is the ‘pied piper’ of a campaign for water fluoridation in the county.
He said it is ‘insanity’ that fluoride has not been added to water across the whole country yet.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in some soils, food and drink which strengthens the outer surface of teeth, making them more resistant to decay.
It is added to dental products including many toothpastes, but can also be put into tap water so it reaches whole populations.
The World Health Organisation recommends water fluoridation as an “effective and safe public health intervention”.
Some areas of Nottinghamshire, including Mansfield, Bassetlaw, Ashfield and some parts of Newark and Sherwood have had fluoride in their tap water since the 1970s.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it wants “more of the country to benefit from water fluoridation”.
Opponents of flouridation have raised concerns over dental fluorosis – a brown discolouration which can appear on a child’s teeth if they are exposed to too much flouride while still developing.
The NHS says it is “uncommon” in the UK for fluorosis to be severe enough to seriously affect the appearance of teeth, because fluoride levels in water are carefully monitored by the Drinking Water Inspectorate and adjusted if necessary.
As of 2022, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care has responsibility for water fluoridation, as opposed to local authorities and water companies.
A motion by Cllr Doddy was passed at Nottinghamshire County Council full council on July 13 supporting water fluoridation in the entire county.
He told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The reason it has become so important is the post-Covid deterioration in the oral health of the children of Nottingham.
“We knew there were problems before Covid, but it is clear there has been no bounce back in the ability to access a dentist.
“It coincides with a national feeling that there is a problem with the teeth of the nation.
“From my point of view, it’s simple, putting fluoride in the water is the single most effective public health measure that exists for reducing dental decay.”
Cllr Doddy said the chemical makes a 35 per cent reduction in rotten teeth – and questioned why it hasn’t been added to water locally for 40 years.
He said in the areas which have fluoride in their water, there is a dental decay rate of around 18 per cent in children, compared to 37 per cent in other areas of the county.
Cllr Doddy added: “The simple reality is in 40 years there hasn’t been a single side effect.
“I will get councils in the East Midlands to agree that we want it and then go down to London and hand them the evidence.
“I’ve spoken personally to (the health secretary) Steve Barclay and said it’s my mission to get fluoride in our water.
“I consider myself the pied piper of fluoridation.
“I have absolutely no doubt that there will be a continuation of the challenge of children keeping their own teeth if we do not do this.
“The catastrophe which is dental health will continue to increase if nobody has the courage to step forward.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Water fluoridation is a safe and effective measure to help improve our nation’s oral health, tackle disparities and reduce cavities and tooth extractions among children.
“We want more of the country to benefit from water fluoridation and recently transferred responsibilities for fluoridation schemes from Local Authorities to central government, making it simpler to expand schemes, subject to public consultation.”
The motion which was passed at the council meeting said: “This Council is concerned that there is evidence of inequality in oral health when comparing some areas of Nottinghamshire with others and believes that expanding water fluoridation to all parts of Nottinghamshire would generate oral health benefits for residents of every age, but especially children and young people, to whom we are committed to giving the best start in life as a key ambition of our Nottinghamshire Plan through our Best Start Strategy 2021-25.
“This Council, therefore, supports the Chairman of the Health & Wellbeing Board working with other local councils, Integrated Care Partnerships, and the water companies serving this county, to champion the oral health agenda, including water fluoridation, because we certainly believe “prevention is better than cure”.