Last year, Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee launched an investigation into oral health.
From August, councillors have been gathering evidence from a range of health experts, stakeholders and interested parties.
This included feedback on potentially introducing fluoride into the city’s water supply, which would be subject to public consultation and a lengthy legal process.
The committee rubber-stamped their draft report, with the findings set to be discussed by the council’s ruling cabinet next month.
A foreword from scrutiny committee chair, Coun Darryl Dixon, said the review was an important piece of work for the committee, council and people of Sunderland.
“We often take our teeth and oral health for granted, but they play a very important role in our lives,” the report reads.
“Teeth help us chew and digest food, they help us to talk and speak clearly and they also give our face its shape.
“Good oral health provides greater confidence for people as well as influencing our social lives, careers and our relationships.
“Maintaining good oral hygiene is also important in a person’s overall health. oral health research has linked gum disease to heart disease, premature birth and even knee arthritis.
“So oral health is extremely important not only to looking good but to feeling good too.”
According to a recent survey, 28.4% of five-year-olds in Sunderland examined had dental decay compared to 23.3% nationally.
The report added Sunderland is the second worst area in the North East behind Middlesbrough for five-year-olds with decay, missing or filled teeth, with “strong links” between decay and deprivation.
Any community water fluoridation (CWF) scheme on Wearside in future would impact supplies in County Durham and South Tyneside.
And experts have said introducing the naturally occurring mineral could reduce the number of people suffering cavities and also requires the least behavioural change.
As the issue is divisive, views from campaigners UK Freedom from Fluoride Alliance were also considered during the scrutiny review.
Concerns included “uncertainty over the benefits” and “removing freedom of choice for an entire population affected”.
Health scrutiny committee chair, Coun Darryl Dixon, has previously said fluoridation plans should be put to a “free vote” on the council.
The recommendation to cabinet adds the local authority should make an “appropriate determination” on the suitability of CWF based on “all the available evidence and representations.”
Coun Neil MacKnight, speaking at the health scrutiny meeting this week, added any consultation should be “robust and informed”.
“There’s a lot of people with preconceived ideas and quackery out there, we did look at the evidence and if it does go out to consultation it should be evidence driven,” he said.
Other plans to tackle oral health issues in Sunderland from the review include:
Developing an oral health strategy. Promoting more regular attendance at dentists. Targeted work for the most vulnerable such as homeless, elderly and those admitted to hospital. Backing the ‘dental check by one’ campaign to ensure all young children are seen by a dentist before their first birthday. Supervised tooth brushing schemes and fluoride varnish programmes for primary schools. Oral health promotion across early years services, maternity services, health and social care, local schools and nurseries.
*Original article online at https://www.sunderlandecho.com/news/politics/council/plans-tackle-dental-problems-sunderland-1362021