Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan says Singapore will continue to put fluoride in its drinking water supply as it is an effective way to fight tooth decay.
He said this in a written reply to MP for Marine Parade GRC, Mr Seah Kian Peng.
Mr Seah had asked whether putting fluoride in the drinking supply is still necessary to prevent dental caries.
He also asked about the current percentage of developed countries that still fluoridate their water supply and the empirical experience in Singapore on the levels of dental caries.
Mr Khaw said Singapore started putting fluoride into its water supply in 1954.
“Our experts in the Fluoride Review Committee have recommended that we should continue to do so,” he said.
First, it has been effective in reducing dental caries.
Second, research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has shown that fluoride is most effective in preventing dental caries if a low level of fluoride is constantly present in the mouth.
Mr Khaw said while Singaporeans today have access to more sources of fluoride, such as fluoride toothpastes and mouth rinses, these products are not used by everyone.
He said water fluoridation remains the most cost-effective preventive public health measure for tooth decay.
Third, the Cochrane Collaboration Oral Health Group, an international expert group, has studied allegations of health risk due to water fluoridation.
“They found no evidence of such an allegation, so long as the water fluoridation is kept within a certain fluoride concentration level,” said Mr Khaw.
Mr Khaw said the latest WHO guideline prescribes it at 1.5 mg per litre.
“In Singapore, we have over the years progressively reduced our fluoridation level to its current concentration level of 0.6mg per litre in our tap water. This is well within the WHO’s prescribed safety level,” he said.
Some 40 countries, including the US, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland have water fluoridation schemes in place.
Singapore’s Fluoride Review Committee meets regularly to review the appropriate and safe concentration level of fluoride in drinking water.
Mr Khaw said their conclusion was that dental fluorosis is not prevalent in Singapore, and is only of minor aesthetic concern.
Dental fluorosis is a health condition caused by a child receiving too much fluoride during tooth development.
In its mild form, it appears as tiny white streaks or specks that are often unnoticeable.
In its severe form, it is characterized by black and brown stains, as well as cracking and pitting of the teeth.