THE cost of adding fluoride to thousands of Hampshire homes is a drop in the ocean of dental health spending, health chiefs say.
They believe the money spent on the controversial measure is tiny in comparison to the benefits it could bring.
If approved, the controversial scheme, which is to be the subject of a three-month public consultation starting in August, would cost nearly £500,000 to set up.
The Department of Health would pick up the estimated £471,000 bill for putting the infrastructure in place to deliver fluoridated water to 160,000 Southampton residents and 36,000 more living in Eastleigh, Totton and Netley.
Southampton City Primary Care Trust (PCT) would then have to find the estimated £60,500 yearly running costs of the scheme to artificially increase the natural level of fluoride in the water.
The organisation currently spends more than £9.5m every year on combating dental disease, but despite educational promotions levels of decay have soared in more deprived areas.
Although the effects of fluoridation are contested and can vary greatly, an independent Government-commissioned review found that on average fluoridated areas have 15 per cent more children who are completely free of tooth decay.
Campaigners against fluoridation say the costs involved in the process are not warranted for such a small potential improvement.
They say projects targeted at increasing dental health and awareness in specific areas would have a greater impact.
But Dr Andrew Mortimore, the PCT’s director of public health, insists studies show improvements in dental health would help repay the outlay on fluoridation, and if it is very successful could even bring about a net profit.
“An independent investigation into costs of the scheme have found fluoridation to be very costeffective,”
“The majority of the cost of the schemewill be recouped by a reduction in the cost of dental treatment due to prevention of tooth decay.
“The NHS will bear the costs of fluoridation. The Department of Health will provide a grant, which will cover the full set-up costs of the fluoride scheme if it goes ahead.
“The annual running costs of adding fluoride to the water will be met by Southampton City PCT.
“The cost is estimated to be £60,000. This works out to be about 31p per person, per annum.
“The PCT currently spends over £9.5m on dental care for the city.
“We believe this is a cost-effective scheme that will not add any significant cost to the taxpayer, and improve the dental health of population greatly.”