PUPILS should be made to brush their teeth at school every morning to improve their dental health.
That is the call from campaigners fighting controversial plans to put fluoride in Hampshire tap water. Instead they want health chiefs to introduce the radical classroom scheme, which is proving successful elsewhere in the UK.
An initiative to make pupils brush their teeth at school is already being trialled in Greater Manchester after a similar successful project in Glasgow.
A teachers’ representative last night joined anti-fluoride campaigners in backing the idea for Southampton as a targeted way of cutting tooth decay in children, which is particularly bad in more deprived areas.
But health bosses have rejected the scheme, insisting it would have nowhere near the impact of fluoridating water supplies.
Teachers in Rochdale, which has some of the highest levels of tooth decay in children, have been overseeing five- to seven- year-olds brushing their teeth as part of the morning routine in schools.
If the project proves successful it will be extended throughout Manchester.
It comes after a similar scheme in Glasgow saw a huge drop in the number of rotten teeth children were suffering.
Hampshire Against Fluoridation chairman John Spottiswoode said he believes a targeted initiative would be much better than fluoridation, which he argues will not work, does not cover all the areas where dental health levels are bad and violates individuals’ right to choice.
He said the campaign group is working to get those behind Glasgow’s Child Smile scheme to come to Southampton to discuss its benefits.
Mr Spottiswoode said “It’s more cost effective than fluoridation, because it is actually effective.
“It’s targeting children who are the key people to get into good habits. Once they get into those habits they get into them for life.
“If you target the right people that delivers results, as has been shown in Glasgow.”
Southampton’s National Union of Teachers representative Pete Sopowski said he believed teachers would back a scheme to improve children’s dental health.
He said: “With parents’ consent it’s a good idea. Young children need to be taught routines like hand washing before meals.
“The reality is most kids get up, have their breakfast and shove off.
“It could be a requirement of coming to the breakfast club.
“Most teachers would be in favour.”
But Southampton’s director of public health, Dr Andrew Mortimore, said targeted schemes have not been successful enough, which is why moves have been made towards fluoridating water supplies in parts of Southampton, Eastleigh, Totton, Netley and Rownhams.
He said: “Supervised toothbrushing, along with other targeted interventions, have been carried out in Southampton for many years now.
“These have achieved small local improvements, but have not brought about population-level improvements in dental health.”
“A local water fluoridation scheme will benefit everyone who has access to it.
“Our targeted oral health promotion initiatives will continue within the groups with the highest needs.
“Other areas across the country which have implemented fluoridation schemes, primarily in the West Midlands, have achieved some of the best dental health in the country with this combination of methods.
“We want to achieve those same benefits here in Southampton, particularly for children.”