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For 100 years it has been added to toothpaste to make your teeth tougher. Now, councils should consider adding fluoride to drinking water to improve people’s dental health, according to the Government’s public health advisers.

The first ever national report examining the impact of water fluoridation on children, published by Public Health England (PHE), found that the measure has significantly reduced tooth decay and hospital admissions for dental problems.

Researchers measured the dental health of five-year-olds with baby teeth and 12-year-olds with adult teeth from fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas.

They found that there were 45 per cent fewer children aged between one and four admitted to hospital for tooth decay in fluoridated areas, while levels of general tooth decay were 15 per cent lower for five-year-olds and 11 per cent lower for 12-year-olds. In more deprived areas, the impact was even more striking.
The study also showed a statistically significant reduction in incidences of kidney stones and bladder cancer in areas where fluoride had been added to drinking water, which the agency said was “potentially interesting” and merited further research. But it cautioned that it was too early to tell if the altered water had a “protective effect”.

In England, 15 out of 152 local authorities have water fluoridation schemes in place, covering six million people. The process sees the level of fluoride being adjusted to one milligram per litre, or one part per million.

Attempts by local authorities to introduce similar schemes have caused controversy in the past, amid suggestions it can increase the risk of some cancers, hip fractures and Down’s syndrome. But the PHE report appears to strike down such claims, concluding that the process is a “safe and effective” measure which carries no threat of harm.

“There is a good deal of speculation about water fluoridation schemes. This report provides new data which is direct evidence of the safety and efficacy of water fluoridation in England,” said Professor John Newton, the agency’s Chief Knowledge Officer.

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