MAKE sure you have your say. That is the message from Englands top dental adviser to the people of Southampton considering the contentious plans to add fluoride to tap water.
Dr Barry Cockroft is visiting the city tonight to speak to dentists about the impact of fluoridation on dental inequalities.
Nearly half of all Southampton youngsters suffer from tooth decay by the age of five, but the figures are much higher in deprived areas of the city.
With several high-profile attempts to educate parents having failed to make an impact, the situation has got so bad that health chiefs see fluoridation as the only way to reduce the number of rotten teeth.
But the plans, which are to be debated during a three-month public consultation starting in August, have proved controversial.
Fears have been raised about adverse side effects of topped-up levels of fluoride – which campaigners say include mottled teeth, bone cancer, thyroid problems, birth defects, cancer and lowered IQ in children.
Opponents dispute evidence that fluoridation reduces tooth decay and say it is wrong to expose people with perfectly healthy teeth for potential benefits in other areas.
Ahead of his visit to Southampton, Dr Cockcroft, who is the government’s Chief Dental Officer, said he had experienced fluoridation first hand.
“Before coming to the Department of Health, I practised as a dentist in Rugby, where the water is fluoridated, and saw first hand the benefits that fluoridation offers to people’s teeth,” he said.
“Levels of tooth decay in fluoridated areas are less than half of those found in those without fluoridation.”
Dr Cockroft said he is pleased city health chiefs are progressing their bid to add fluoride to the water supply of 160,000 residents, and a further 36,000 people living beyond the city boundary in Eastleigh, Totton and Netley.
“I was very encouraged to hear that the South Central Strategic Health Authority had decided to hold a consultation on adding fluoride to Southamptons water supply,” he said.
“I urge all residents of Southampton to give their views on the proposed fluoridation scheme to the Strategic Health Authority.”
Dr Cockroft’s visit, to talk about the national perspective on fluoridation, comes as the Daily Echo’s own snapshot poll of residents’ opinions draws to a close.
Thousands of people have voted by phone, text, mail and online, with many joining the debate and deluging our offices with comments.