Fluoride Action Network

England to Pursue New Means of Tackling Tooth Decay Among Poor

Source: The Independent | August 31st, 2001 | by Sarah Cassidy
Location: United Kingdom, England

More than one million children in England are to receive free toothbrushes and toothpaste as part of a government initiative to tackle tooth decay in deprived areas.

The £1m Brushing for Life project was launched after research showed that pre-school children from deprived areas have up to three times the level of tooth decay of those from wealthier backgrounds.

The three-year project will target babies and toddlers in the 21 areas with the highest levels of dental decay among five-year-olds. It also sets new targets for children’s teeth, saying that five-year-olds should have no more than one decayed, missing or filled tooth by 2003, while 70 per cent should have no decay at all.

The worst areas for early tooth decay are in the North- west, Yorkshire and London.

Launching the strategy, Hazel Blears, a Health minister, said: “This is the Government putting its money where its mouth is, quite literally.

“Research shows that in some deprived areas children can experience three times the amount of dental decay compared with children from more affluent areas.

“This is unacceptable when both dental decay and gum disease are avoidable simply by encouraging young children to develop the habit of brushing their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.”

Health visitors will give a free toothbrush, toothpaste and leaflets to the parents and carers of young children and demonstrate correct toothbrushing techniques. The packs will be distributed at children’s health development checks at eight months, 18 months, and three years.

The British Dental Health foundation estimates that about 4 per cent of two-year-olds have some tooth decay, rising to 30 per cent in four-year-olds. A survey of 700 three-year-olds in Manchester by the Health Education Authority found that 40 per cent had some decay.

Recent news of related interest:

Glasgow Evening Times

Kids brush up on good teeth

March 5, 2001


TOOTH decay among nursery children has been dramatically reduced during a campaign to teach them how to brush their teeth.

The number of youngsters registered with dentists has also doubled since health chiefs acted five years ago. They now want to extend the scheme to primary schools.

Lanarkshire Health Board launched the campaign after figures revealed disturbing levels of dental problems in youngsters starting school. Officials discovered some children were not being taught how to brush their teeth by their parents.

Almost 10,000 children at nurseries throughout the area take part in the scheme.

Children as young as three are given toothbrushes, toothpaste and lessons in how to clean their teeth properly. The pioneering campaign, the biggest of its kind in Scotland, has had hugely encouraging results so far.

Lanarkshire, previously one of Britain’s worst areas for dental health, is now one of the few places recording a big reduction in tooth decay among pre-school children.

And the campaign, which is backed up with advice from health visitors to new mothers, is thought to be responsible for the dramatic increase in the number of children registered with dentists.

Five years ago, five-year-olds in Lanarkshire had an average of 3.5 decayed, missing or filled teeth — almost the same as in Glasgow. But the Lanarkshire figure has dropped to just over 2.5 — while Glasgow’s has remained static.

Health chiefs are delighted with the results of the campaign. Dental health consultant Margie Taylor said: “We recognise we still have a long way to go but the average decay rate has reduced since the programme started and the number of children registering with dentists has gone up.

“The figures are coming down gradually. Lanarkshire is among the bottom four areas in Britain for dental health.”


Scottish Green Party

September 4, 2000

Feed the kids, don’t fluoridate them!


Scottish Green Party MSP Robin Harper today launched his Party’s campaign against Scottish Executive proposals to fluoridate Scotland’s drinking water supplies. Robin Harper is expected to challenge Health Minister Susan Deacon during question time in Parliament next week over the Executive’s plans for fluoridation.

At this morning’s briefing the Green Party outlined their reasons for consistently opposing water fluoridation, primarily on the grounds that it will mean unnecessary consumption of a toxic substance by the public through a monopoly supply and what they say is a gross infringement of human rights.

Green MSP Robin Harper said; “I abhor the idea of adding fluoride to drinking water, it’s mass-medication without choice. It’s a frightening abuse of the monopoly on water supply”.

He said that dental decay is not caused by lack of fluoride but by poor nutrition, and poor dental hygiene and that more action should be taken to tackle these causes; “Bad teeth are just one result of poverty and poor diet. This should be about more than just trying to prevent dental decay; it should be about helping children, primarily from deprived areas, to get a good start in life and enable them to grow into healthy adults.”

The Greens say fluoridation would appear to be defunct now as recent trials in Glasgow and Dundee, where children were provided with toothbrushes and toothpaste, showed remarkable results – 37% reduction in dental decay in two years; which they say is better than fluoridation would have achieved.

Kay Allan, the Greens’ spokesperson on water issues told the meeting; “We’ve calculated that brushing schemes with free toothbrushes and paste for kids would cost about £2.5 million a year compared with £4 million for running fluoridation plant. Fluoridation would also cost about £30 million to set up and take two years to build whereas brushing schemes could be started right away.

“Thirty million would buy a lot of toothbrushes and paste, the Executive is aiming to cut the number of youngsters suffering from dental decay to 40% within ten years using fluoridation but by using the tooth brushing scheme this figure could be 15% in ten years”.

She also condemned the fact that in 1978, in 1992 and now in 2000 Scottish people were once again being asked to accept water fluoridation as an answer to tooth decay and said that public opposition to fluoridation was still as strong as ever; “After all the recent food scares and increasing environmental pollution, the public do not want to consume any more chemicals, especially by their children. Today we are alerting the public to what the Executive is proposing, so they can let them know fluoridation is not what they want. We don’t want fluoride by the back door.”


Quotes of Note:

“There was little evidence to show that water fluoridation has reduced social inequalities in dental health” – Dr. Trevor Sheldon, Founding Director of England’s National Health Service Centre for Reviews & Dissemination. January 3, 2001. See http://www.fluoridealert.org/sheldon.htm

“[T]he evidence that fluoridation of drinking water would reduce inequalities in dental health is scanty” – Editorial, British Medical Journal. January 27, 2001. See http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/322/7280/184