A decision by any local authority to remove fluoridation from the public water supply ‘would significantly increase the risk of tooth decay among children in Ireland’, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has claimed.
Currently in Ireland, the public water supply is fluoridated – this means that just over 70% of the population uses it on a daily basis. The practice is considered controversial by some, with anti-fluoridation campaigners arguing that adding substances to the water supply amounts to mass medication, which they insist is unethical.
However, dentists have long claimed that along with fluoride toothpaste, fluoridated water is the most effective way of preventing dental caries (cavities).
Recently, some councils around the country have voted against fluoridating the water supply, and a number of TDs and Senators have also stated their opposition to the practice.
Commenting on this controversial issue, Dr John Walsh, dean of the faculty of dentistry at the RCSI, pointed out that Irish children, particularly toddlers and young children, continue to suffer with dental decay. This is often due to a diet high in sugary products and inadequate brushing.
“All of the robust scientific data demonstrates that fluoridation protects against tooth decay. Studies of children’s oral health consistently showed that those living in areas with fluoridated water had 18% less tooth decay than those living in non-fluoridated areas. To ignore this evidence is taking a big health risk,” he insisted.
He said that dental surgeries are currently ‘brimming with children under seven who are already showing signs of irreparable tooth decay from over consumption of sugar-sweetened drink and treats’.
He pointed out that all of the evidence available to date demonstrates that fluoridation reduces tooth decay. However, he also called for more awareness and education in schools about the effects of consuming too much sugar.
“Many Irish primary schools have introduced healthy eating policies and this is a positive step and to be welcomed. If parents can replicate this behaviour in the home and dispense with daily treats we would see positive results,” Dr Walsh said.
He made his comments at the opening of an international scientific meeting hosted by the RCSI, entitled ‘Current Controversies in Dental Practice’.