DOCTORS Lowry and Robson (HAS, March 20) assert that oral health in fluoridated Newcastle is “much better than in the neighbouring non-fluoridated areas”.
What statistics are they reading? The Dental Health Surveys (DHS) are plagued by varying participation. If you believed them, you would have recommended more fluoride for Newcastle’s water after the 2007-08 survey since it showed that 53 per cent of five-year-olds had decayed teeth.
But the participation in the survey was only six per cent.
In the 2014-15, participation in the survey across the North-East was again low at an average of 12 per cent, causing an apparent “spike” in tooth decay in Sunderland and Darlington. This “decay” then fell off by 29 per cent and 25 per cent respectively over the next two years, probably due to better participation (an average of 52 per cent).
A study of extraction rates due to caries in our local hospitals may be more accurate, since consent is not sought as in a DHS. People come to hospital because they need to.
Using Government data, comparing some fairly deprived locations of Sunderland, South Tyneside and Middlesbrough, with similarly-deprived fluoridated Newcastle we see that in age group 0-10 years, average hospital tooth extractions for caries in Newcastle over a five-year period from 2014 onwards, was (respectively) quadruple, triple and double that of the three un-fluoridated towns.
This pattern repeats in fluoridated North Tyneside, where the extractions are triple, double and 1.4 times that of the un-fluoridated towns.
The only possible explanation is that artificial fluoride weakens teeth in Newcastle and North Tyneside.
Public Health England’s belief that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay is built on quicksand. The contradiction between its expectations and the reality of extra-hospital extractions in North-East fluoridated towns threatens to undermine and destroy the fluoridation programme, and not before time.