House of Lords written question – answered on 17th July 2003.

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Photo of Lord Monson Lord Monson Crossbench

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the incidence of dental caries in children is higher in the non-fluoridated cities in France, Germany, Italy and Sweden than in broadly comparable cities in Great Britain where the water supply is fluoridated; and, if not, whether they will investigate how France, Germany, Italy and Sweden manage to achieve good dental health without resorting to fluoridation.

Photo of Lord Warner Lord Warner Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health)

The introduction of fluoridated toothpaste in the 1970s is credited with an overall improvement in oral health, but an association between high levels of tooth decay and economic and social deprivation has been identified in most countries, including cities in the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe.

While the Department of Health maintains contact with dental institutions in Europe, we do not yet have sufficient information to make more detailed comparisons between levels of dental caries in the different countries. However, a survey undertaken in Ireland in 2001–02 is relevant because 71 per cent of the population of the Irish Republic receives fluoridated water, but there are no fluoridation schemes in Northern Ireland. The survey found that 30 per cent of five year-old residents of fluoridated communities in the Republic of Ireland have one or more decayed, missing or filled tooth while, in the non-fluoridated communities in the Republic and Northern Ireland, 47 per cent of this age group had dental decay. The attraction of water fluoridation is its potential for reducing inequalities in oral health, in particular by protecting those families who may not buy toothpaste or establish regular toothbrushing regimes.

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