Fluoride Action Network


By Ellen Connett | Fluoride Action Network | November 5, 2017

In 2000, the British Dental Health Foundation called upon the Scottish Executive to implement fluoridation of the public drinking water “to combat tooth decay problems afflicting thousands of children.”

Four years later, in November 2004, the BBC reported that the Scottish Executive decided not to fluoridate its public drinking water and “was instead planning a range of other measures to improve the dental health of children.”

Preceding this decision opposition to fluoridation was “overwhelming.” According to The Scottish Herald, “Thousands have raised objections to any move by the Scottish Executive to introduce what has been described as mass medication…” A 2005 news article reported that “97% of responses from the public” opposed fluoridation.

In January 2002, the Scottish Consumer Council warned that pressing ahead with the proposals could expose the public to ‘adverse health effects’;

In November 2002, the Shadow Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon “rejected any plans to add fluoride to water supplies.”

In September 2003, the Green Party MSP [Member of the Scottish Parliament] Robin Harper stated “We  [the Scottish Green Party] oppose water fluoridation on health and ethical grounds. Fluoridation breaches medical ethics and human rights by forcing people to take medication against their will, and has been linked to bone cancer and premature puberty.”


Childsmile is the flagship national oral health improvement programme for Scotland. The overarching aims of Childsmile are to improve the oral health of children in Scotland and to reduce inequalities both in dental health and in access to dental services. There is also potential for other health impacts particularly with regard to diet and obesity. The Childsmile Programme is the main route to delivering the dental HEAT target.

“The Programme has three main arms:

1. Childsmile Core is a Scotland-wide initiative involving universal supervised nursery school toothbrushing provision (extended to Primary 1 and 2 classes in most deprived areas); in addition to the free distribution of toothpaste and toothbrushes, oral health improvement packs are distributed to every child in Scotland on at least six occasions during their first five years.

2. Childsmile Practice targets children from birth and promotes oral health improvement and clinical caries prevention in dental practice, salaried primary care dental services and local community settings. This element has focused on reorientating dental practice to an anticipatory care and team approach to children’s dentistry, and integrating dental services with wider health services and community initiatives. There has been significant workforce development in creating Dental Health Support Worker roles within public health nursing teams, developing referral pathways, and training Dental Nurses ( DN) in clinical prevention including toothbrush demonstration, dietary advice and support, and as the child gets older the application of fluoride varnish.

3. Childsmile Nursery and School targets the most deprived 20% of nurseries and schools by identifying the 20% of establishments with the highest proportion of children living in the most deprived local quintile, as defined using SIMD. These nurseries and schools receive additional preventive initiatives in the form of twice yearly fluoride varnish applications to children’s teeth by Childsmile teams. These teams comprise DNs and DHSWs. The Childsmile teams also deliver oral health promotion advice to parents and carers. In addition, the Childsmile Nursery and School programme contributes to the creation of a health-promoting environment within nurseries and primary schools and provides additional pathways of referral into dental services for those who have not yet accessed dental care…” Read more of this longer article here.

News articles before Childsmile was created:

August 11, 2000 (Annanova News): Health experts call for fluoride in water

January 10, 2002 (Scottish Daily Mail): Scottish Consumer Council urges ministers to scrap ‘risky’ fluoride plan

September 8, 2003 (Scottish Green Party): Tell Scots the truth about fluoride, say Greens

March 20, 2003 (The Herald): Thousands say no to fluoride in Scotland’s water

July 18, 2004 (Editorial: Sunday Express): Don’t toy with fluoride

November 17, 2004 (The Evening Times): Fury over grants to pro-fluoride lobby

November 18, 2004 (BBC): Scotland: Fluoride plan goes down the drain

March 23, 2005 (The Evening Times): Health board in U-turn on fluoride plan

News articles after Childsmile began:

January 3, 2011 (Dentistry IQ): New plea to add fluoride to water

March 7, 2011 (Scottish Government): Childsmile is the flagship national oral health improvement programme for Scotland

June 22, 2012 (Scottish Government): Childsmile: Learning from previous work

December 26, 2012 (BBC News Scotland): Tooth decay of P1 pupils in Scotland at record low

November 10, 2013 (BBC News Scotland): Nursery toothbrushing saves £6m in dental costs

October 13, 2014 (Bedford Times & Citizen): Fluoridation – Alternative solution, Letter by Professor Stephen Peckham

January 12, 2015 (The Guardian): Call for water fluoridation across England to cut childhood tooth decay

June 9, 2015 (The Scottish Government): Pioneering Childsmile programme also saving millions for public purse

July 14, 2015 (The Daily Mail): Supervise child’s teeth-brushing until age of eight: Dentists’ advice as tooth decay cases soar

January 28, 2016 (Fluoride Free NZ): Whakatane STOPS Water Fluoridation: Money to be spent on oral health care programme

September 5, 2017 (The Scotsman): Schools and nurseries helping youngsters improve dental care

September 9, 2017 (Scottish Government): Improving children’s oral health – Childsmile programme expands

September 11, 2017 (Isle of Man News): Nursery children to take part in toothbrushing pilot project

November 2, 2017 (Greenock Telegraph): Inverclyde nurseries battle tooth decay stats