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Volume 889: debated on Tuesday 25 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take steps to promote the dental health of children, following the report by Professor Douglas Jackson on the results of water fluoridation in Anglesey.

This report provides further evidence of the efficacy of fluoridation of water supplies in protecting children against dental decay. I am sure that health authorities will bear it in mind when exercising their responsibility for deciding whether to introduce fluoridation in their areas.

As the Anglesey result shows a reduction in decay of over 80 per cent. in front teeth and 40 per cent. for other teeth, will the Minister go further than to say that the result shows efficacy and add that he regards it as proved that fluoridation of about one part per million reduces dental decay dramatically? Will he draw the results to the attention of all health authorities and ask them what action they intend to take?

I confirm that my feelings accord with those of the hon. Gentleman as to the efficacy of fluoridation. The Government have announced that they will produce later this year a consultative paper on preventive measures, including preventive dentistry. It is likely that the paper will deal with the effects of fluoridation. The information will be made available to health authorities and this House and we can then discuss the issues.

Does my hon. Friend agree that fluoride can occur naturally in water almost to the level suggested as a health preservative measure for teeth?

That is the case. That is why research on the safety of fluoridation is probably the most extensive to have been conducted into any public health measure and why health authorities should seriously consider exercising their responsibilities in this matter.

Does the Minister agree that ingestion of fluoride for the purposes of preventing dental decay is effective only for young children up to the age of about seven years and not for adults? Is there not a less wasteful method of helping to prevent dental decay than to introduce fluoride into the public water supply which everybody has to drink whether he needs fluoride or not?

Experts in numerous countries who have been considering this matter have concentrated on the school population and the under-five population. However, the advice that one consistently gets is that the most effective way of introducing this preventive health measure is by the fluoridation of all water supplies.