A DENTIST today warned: “If we do nothing, half the babies born in Lancashire will have tooth decay by the time they start primary school.”

Poulton dentist Graham Wilding was speaking after it was revealed Health Secretary Alan Johnson is set to announce his proposal to add flouride to tap water.

It follows research showing children in Birmingham – where fluoride has been added to drinking water for more than 40 years –suffer only half the tooth decay of children in Manchester, where none is added.

Last year, The Gazette revealed more than 1,200 Blackpool children were without a dentist. And a survey showed half of the region’s five-year-olds had rotten teeth.

Mr Wilding, who set up the national Stop The Rot campaign to prevent children’s tooth decay, gave the fluoride his backing.

He said: “It would be hugely beneficial. We now consume more fizzy drinks than we do milk. I see children coming in with decayed teeth when they are four-years old.

“I’m a father-of-three and I am perfectly happy for my children to drink fluoridated water.

“Fluoride bonds with the enamel on teeth. It helps strengthen it and make it harder, making it at less risk from acid attack.

“We’re not talking about just chucking this stuff in, we are talking about doing it in a controlled manner for a very good reason.”

But anti-flouride campaigners claim the benefits are unproven and some believe putting fluoride in water can lead to health problems.

Liz Vaughan, member of the UK Councils Against Fluoridation, said: “There is clear evidence the addition of fluoridation chemicals to the public water supplies is neither safe nor effective.”

But Mr Wilding stressed that fluoride was a naturally occurring element.

He said: “Some opponents have referred to it as a poison, but it is very chemically similar to chloride. Chlorine is added to our water so we don’t contract serious illness from harmful bacteria and this is standard and accepted practice. Table salt can harm health in large amounts. It’s about getting balance.”

Mr Johnson will this week urge all health authorities to increase the number of people who have the mineral pumped into their homes through England and Wales.