I AM a dental surgeon and a member of the Expert Body on Fluorides and Health in Ireland.
I have been an advocate for water fluoridation in Ireland for the past ten years as a result of my own clinical experience and due to the evidence available from regional, national and international research.
Virtually all public water supplies in the Republic of Ireland have fluoride added.
I have a special interest in the debate in Hampshire as I grew up near Eastleigh and I have many relatives living in the Eastleigh and Chandler’s Ford area.
Last year, I visited Eastleigh and I spent about five days in the area, I was struck by the number of younger people I saw in and around Southampton with obvious cavities in their front teeth. I noticed about a dozen people in the 20-40 age group with this condition.
I was very surprised as this type of tooth decay is quite rare in Ireland – so much so that the dental schools have for many years had difficulty sourcing enough patients with these cavities for their dental students.
Cavities of this type tend to be limited in Ireland to socially or medically compromised persons, to recent refugees or asylum seekers, and are also commoner in non-fluoridated areas. Such cavities in younger people have almost become a marker for deprivation or neglect.
There is no doubt that fluoridation has been a major dental health success in Ireland. The question of possible adverse health effects has been dealt with at length by major national and international reviews in the past decade, all of which conclude that there is no obvious health concern for consumers of fluoridated water.
As for general health benefits, it should be borne in mind that better health will arise both from good oral health itself and also from the absence of a need to treat disease.
I work in a region that borders Northern Ireland and our rate of referral for general anaesthetics is less than half that of a similar sized population across the border (Northern Ireland is not fluoridated).
Given the costs and the potential hazards of general anaesthetics, this has to be considered a tangible health and economic gain.