HEALTH chiefs have commissioned a study into whether fluoride should be put into Nottingham’s water to improve children’s teeth.
Nottingham is one of the worst areas in the country for tooth decay.
Mansfield, Ashfield and Bassetlaw, have seen a drop in tooth decay since fluoride was put into the water supply.
But the presence of the chemical in water can produce a ‘mottled’ effect on teeth and critics say its long-term impact on health is unknown.
The city’s Primary Care Trust has invited companies to bid for the right to carry out a feasibility study into fluoridation.
If PCT officials decide that the benefits of fluoridation outweigh potential harm, the strategic health authority NHS East Midlands will carry out a public consultation.
Fluoridation would not go ahead unless water suppliers, council and health officials all agree.
Chris Packham, the PCT’s director of public health, said: “There are all sorts of problems for fluoridating water for a particular patch to do with where the supply comes from and the plant which is used.
“When some of the authorities made the decision in the 1970s and 80s they based it on a lot less information.
“We are getting to the point where we understand the pros and cons as fully as they can possibly be understood.”
The PCT is commissioning the study after being presented with a discussion paper on fluoridation by the East Midlands Dental Public Health Network.
In October the Post reported that the health of children’s teeth in Nottingham is 35 years behind the rest of the country.
Five-year-olds have an average of three teeth which are damaged, missing or filled – the second-worst in England.
This year the trust introduced its City Smiles campaign to tackle poor dental health in Nottingham’s most deprived area.
Pregnant women and young children are given dental health advice, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Officials are also planning a mobile dental unit for hard-to-reach groups and fluoride varnishes for 1,000 children.
Wollaton dentist Amarjit Gill, who will become the first Asian president of the British Dental Association in 2010, said his profession supported fluoridation.
He said: “Everyone has a right to their own point of view but the people who are critical of it don’t base it on science.”