ENGLAND’S top dentist believes there is no link between access to NHS dentists and levels of tooth decay.
Which is a shame for Southampton, because it’s currently easier to register with one in the city than it has been for years.
The city’s health chiefs say there is currently exceptional access to NHS dentists.
But Dr Barry Cockcroft, England’s chief dental officer, believes that is not enough to improve the poor record on tooth decay in five-year-olds.
He insists fluoridating water supplies is the only way to reduce the number of youngsters with decayed, missing or filled teeth.
Dr Cockcroft was responding to criticism that money earmarked for the scheme to add fluoride to the tap water of nearly 200,000 Hampshire residents would be better spent increasing the number of NHS dentists.
“There’s a perception about lack of access,” he said. “But there’s no link between access to services and levels of decay. There is no connection between availability of services and the extraction of teeth.”
Dr Cockcroft said solutions to decreasing tooth decay are available, but are not taken up by some sections of society, mostly those in more deprived areas.
He argues fluoridated water will reach youngsters not helped by other methods.
“It’s difficult to get to the most vulnerable areas of society and to the right children.
“But everybody drinks tea, everybody eats food cooked in water. “No one has the right to deny the benefits of fluoridation to those that might need it.”
But anti-fluoridation campaigners say there is no evidence treated water would reach those it is most designed to help.
Professor Paul Connett, head of the international Fluoride Action Network, said he doubts children in deprived areas do drink much water, or get to eat foods cooked in water.
“In the process we are giving it to people who can help themselves and make up their own minds,” he said.
Anyone wanting details of practices accepting NHS patients can call the Hampshire Dental Helpline on 0845 050 8345.