Health bosses have decided that they would like the option of adding fluoride to more water supplies in Cumbria to be explored further.
Already about 130,000 people in West Cumbria receive fluoridated water but a possible extension of the scheme could mean Carlisle, Penrith, Barrow, Kendal and surrounding areas are also included.
Plans are at a very early stage but the county’s Primary Care Trust Board agreed that the matter should be investigated further by NHS Northwest – with the backing of local clinicians and the director of public health – to assess the feasibility of a water fluoridation scheme.
They think that such a move could improve public health by helping to reduce tooth decay.
Members of the public attended the board meeting to express their concern over any potential plan.
Liz Vaughan, of UK Councils Against Fluoridation, told the meeting that it was “mass medication” and warned that it caused a condition called dental fluorosis, which is characterised by black and brown stains, as well as cracking and pitting of the teeth.
However, Eric Rooney, a consultant in dental public health, said: “Children in the North West have some of the worst dental health in England, and Cumbria is no exception.
“Water fluoridation is one possible intervention to improve dental health and we already have fluoridation schemes in the West Cumbria area.”
Dr John Ashton, Cumbria’s Director of Public Health, has also said: “The vast majority of doctors and dentists in the UK endorse the fluoridation of drinking water as a safe way to improve dental health.”
NHS Northwest will report back to the PCT towards the end of this year with a detailed scheme. If the primary care trust’s board then approves NHS Northwest’s proposals, a public consultation would be carried out next summer.