One in four of Scotland’s 5-year-olds suffer from tooth decay and the British Dental Association in Scotland (BDA Scotland) is calling for fluoridation of the water supply to improve the dental health of children and prevent root caries. It is an initiative that Children’s Health Scotland believes to be long overdue and one that will have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of children and young people.
Commenting on the move, Professor Richard Olver, Chair of Children’s Health Scotland (CHS) said: “We have written to the Minister for Public Health and Sport in support of the recommendation made by BDA Scotland for the fluoridation of our water supply. It is nothing short of a public health scandal that more than 1 in 4 of Scotland’s 5-year-olds suffer from dental decay and that dental extractions remain by far the most common reason for admission for general anaesthesia and surgery amongst Scotland’s children. Something needs to be done now to protect the future dental health of our children.”
In a recent feature published by Scottish Dental, Dr Robert Donald, Chair of the British Dental Association’s Scottish Council was reported as saying that: “The public health crisis caused by the pandemic – and the resulting long-term pressure on health services – means that investment in prevention is now essential. My view is that fluoridation of the water supply in Scotland is no longer a subject for debate. The evidence is clear that it is both safe and effective. With the disruption to Childsmile during the pandemic – fluoridation, which is complementary to Childsmile and not a replacement for it, would still have been benefitting our children. It could also benefit the dental health of not only children, but the rest of the population, adolescents, working age people, and also the elderly by preventing root caries.”
Dental procedures can be uncomfortable and distressing for children and young people, as well as costly for the NHS. Fluoridation of water supply as a method to prevent tooth decay has been implemented in many countries, including the Republic of Ireland, Australia and Brazil. It has seen great success over its 50-year history of use, where communities with fluoridated water show a substantial decrease in tooth decay. Despite the overwhelming oral health benefits proven for water fluoridation it still hasn’t been implemented in Scotland.
“It is the mission of Children’s Health Scotland to enable every child and young person to exercise their rights to healthcare and to have these rights upheld, and their healthcare needs met,” added Helen Forrest, Chief Executive of Children’s Health Scotland. “This includes oral health, an area in which we have particular expertise and knowledge having, until November 2016, provided the Special Smiles workshops for children with additional needs, their carers and teaching professionals. Since 2016, when Special Smiles and the associated Dental Playbox were incorporated into Childsmile, CHS has worked in partnership with National Health Education Scotland to deliver training, ‘A Rights-based Approach to Dental Care’. We wholeheartedly support the call by British Dental Association Scotland for the fluoridation of our water supply”.
Even with fluoridation of the water supply, children and young people will still require dental treatment and Children’s Health Scotland has shown that they cope better emotionally with medical and dental treatment if they know what to expect. Therefore, we recommend that parents/carers and health care professionals should help children understand and prepare for dental procedures and treatments by using child-friendly language, toys, books and other resources, keeping in mind the child’s age and level of understanding. For more information, please visit https://www.childrenshealthscotland.org/services/professionals/