Fluoride Action Network

Public attitudes to water fluoridation in Scotland

Source: BDJ (British Dental Journal) | August 5th, 2022 | Authors: Colwyn Jones , Robert J. Lowry, Rita Brophy

Ethics declarations

Colwyn Jones is on the executive of the British Fluoridation Society. Raymond J. Lowry is secretary/treasurer of the British Fluoridation Society. Rita Brophy is an employee of the organisation that undertook the survey. Ethical approval was not required for this professionally conducted public opinion survey as participants were anonymised (there were no possible consequences for participants or their answers), voluntary and they were recruited from the general public (on-street). All contributors gave informed consent to participate in the study and for their anonymous data to be used as part of the research.

Key points

  • We present the results of the only recent Scottish study of public opinion on water fluoridation in Scotland.
  • Our results show that few people report that they have heard recent news about water fluoridation.
  • A minority of people believe that they already have water fluoridation.
  • We found that, as in the rest of the UK, the majority of the Scottish population support water fluoridation.


Introduction Currently, no-one in Scotland benefits from artificial water fluoridation and there have been no recent reports published about public opinion on this issue. We conducted a robust public survey consultation on community water fluoridation to address this absence.

Aims To gauge public attitudes in three urban areas of Scotland to determine respondents’ sources of information, awareness of the current fluoridation status of their local water supply and attitude to community water fluoridation.

Methods A face-to-face quota sample with proportions set for age and sex using six closed questions, plus demographics. The questions and sample size were based on earlier similar studies.

Results A random on-street survey of 410 people was completed. The vast majority (88%, n = 360) of the total sample had not read or heard anything about water fluoridation in the previous 12 months. A minority (36%) believed, incorrectly, that their water supply was already fluoridated compared to 47% who did not know and a smaller minority of 17% who correctly said no. Of those who answered either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question ‘do you think fluoride should be added to water if it can reduce tooth decay?’ (n = 292), 88% were in favour of adding fluoride to water to reduce tooth decay, with 12% stating that they were not in favour of water fluoridation. When people who recorded they don’t know were included (n = 410), 63% said ‘yes’, 28% stated ‘don’t know’ and 9% said ‘no’.

Conclusion Public opinion in Scotland, gauged through a random on-street representative survey, remains strongly in favour of community water fluoridation. Monitoring public opinion should be conducted on a regular basis by individual health boards and the Scottish Government to allow them to take forward this effective and safe public health measure within the existing permissive water fluoridation legislation.

*Original abstract online at https://www.nature.com/articles/s41415-022-4506-1