BURTON children have some of the healthiest teeth in England – thanks to fluoride in tap water, new figures show.
Research by the Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) has shown that children living within the boundaries of East Staffordshire Borough Council have a lower risk of tooth decay than those from most other local authorities in the country.
A group of 10 East Staffordshire five-year-olds have just seven teeth decayed, missing or filled between them, while a similar group from non-fluoridated Blackburn have 32 teeth affected.
Only a dozen councils, including fluoridated Lichfield, Tamworth, Cannock Chase and South Staffordshire, have better children’s dental health than East Staffordshire.
Most people in Burton drink tap water with its natural fluoride content topped up to the scientifically approved optimum of one part of fluoride per million parts of water with the aim of protecting teeth against decay.
Even fluoridated West Midlands local authorities with a high level of social deprivation – usually associated with above average tooth decay among children – are ranked in the top half of the league table, the APHO says.
They include Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry, where a group of 10 children aged five have an average of 10 to 12 teeth affected between them compared with 25 to 30 teeth for an equivalent group of youngsters in non-fluoridated towns like Bolton, Bradford and Manchester.
According to a recent US scientific review of the evidence, adults who live all or most of their lives in fluoridated areas have between about 27 and 35 per cent less tooth decay than those in non-fluoridated areas, the APHO says.
South Staffordshire Primary Care Trust’s consultant in dental public health, John Morris, said Burton’s high ranking in the national teeth league table justified controversial decisions taken in the 1980s to extend the benefits of the “safe and effective public health measure”.
He said: “It is comforting for East Staffordshire parents to know that their children have a lower risk of experiencing toothache and tooth decay than those from most other places in the country, and that they themselves are also benefiting from the protection offered by fluoridated water.”
Former Burton MP Sir Ivan Lawrence was an outspoken opponent of the fluoridation, earning himself a place in the Guinness Book of Records as a result. The Tory MP made the longest Parliamentary speech of the 20th century in March, 1985, when he spoke for four hours, 23 minutes during the committee stage of the Fluoridation Bill in an effort to hamper its progress.