Talks on fluoridating Calderdale water supplies to protect children's teeth

Health partners are to explore the possibility of fluoridating water supplies to better protect Calderdale children’s teeth.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 1:26 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 1:29 pm

This spring members of Calderdale Council Health and Wellbeing Board raised the issue while discussing dental decay among five-year-old children’s teeth.

The council’s Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Julie Jenkins, said the Public Health England data showed over ten years there had been a remarkable improvement in the dental health of children of that age.

This showed that from 39.2 per cent of children in the borough experiencing visually obvious dental decay in 2011-12, this had gradually fallen to 26.7 per cent by 2019-20.

Children brushing teeth

This is better than the 2019-20 figures for Yorkshire and Humberside (28.7 per cent) and comparative northern boroughs over that period (31 per cent, but less than the national figure of 23.4 per cent.

But it was shocking dental decay was the biggest cause of hospital admissions, she said.

Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf) raised the issue of fluoridating water supplies.

The last time the issue was raised a couple of years ago feeling was against this but he wondered if it was worth exploring again.

“It’s the way to ensure children get protection. Is it worth approaching that, to see if minds have changed?” he said.

Chairing the meeting, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) felt it might be and there were proposals about fluoridation in the Government’s new NHS White Paper.

The council’s Chief Executive, Robin Tuddenham, said: “There is reference in the White Paper to pursue the potential for reintroducing fluoridation – it is a proposal, it is not yet developed as a policy.”

Coun Swift suggested the board should note the position and, whatever its past position, be keen to explore it with partners in West Yorkshire.

“We should respond to professional advice we are getting on this,” he said.

Coun Swift reminded the board of the work done on dental health by Liberal Democrat councillor Marilyn Greenwood, who had recently passed away.

Senior scrutiny support officer Mike Lodge said she had initiated some of the scrutiny work on dentistry and this would continue, with NHS England at a regional level keen to work with councillors.

Director of Public Health Debs Harkins said success was about embedding oral health into things like early years settings, health visiting, and so on. Fluoridation was important because it was a universal intervention that benefited children in deprived areas the most.

Coun Baines said: “I was persuaded to look for fluoride in the water by my dentist – he used to say how difficult it was with children with no protection not cleaning their teeth very well and it was a very serious problem he saw day to day.”