Dental professor says combination of fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste works best in tackling dental decay

Dental professor says combination of fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste works best in tackling dental decay

(16 Oct 2014)

Thursday 16th October 2014.

A dental health professor has said that using fluoridated water in tandem with toothpaste with fluoride is the most effective way of preventing caries or dental decay.

In Ireland the public water supply is fluoridated and as a result 71% of the population use it on a daily basis. Professor Denis O’Mullane a former Chief Dental Officer in the Department of Health and former Dean of the Dental School in Cork said the use of fluoridated water was especially important in Ireland where the risk factors for dental decay were higher than elsewhere due to our poor diet and poor tooth brushing habits.

Addressing over 200 delegates at the annual conference for HSE dental surgeons - which begins today in Carlow - Professor O’Mullane said fluoridation of the public water supply was introduced here 50 years ago and that constant surveillance both here and abroad had shown it to be an effective and safe way of reducing caries among the general population.

“A report commissioned by the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and the President of the Royal Society of New Zealand found that fluoridation was the safest and most appropriate public health approach for promoting dental health. A recent study in England found that the prevalence of caries in 12 year olds was over 20% less in areas with fluoridated water” he said.

Professor O’Mullane said some opponents of water fluoridation believed erroneously that it was no longer necessary to add fluoride to public water supplies because of the widespread use of toothpaste with fluoride.

“The public water supply in NI is not fluoridated and this has allowed us to compare the level of dental decay among children there who are just using fluoride tooth paste and children in the Republic who are using fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste. The findings show that despite a higher reported level of brushing in NI, the levels of tooth decay north of the border were over 40% higher than those in the Republic”

Professor O’Mullane said while progress had been made in reducing levels of dental decay over the last 50 years, there was still a long way to go in relation to diet and tooth brushing. “Irish people consume far too much sugar which is bad for their teeth and also consume far too much fat which is bad for their general health. Internationally our tooth brushing levels are very average. Irish boys brush their teeth less frequently than girls. As they get older boys brush less frequently and girls brush more frequently – age 15 it’s 76% for girls brushing more than once a day versus 55% for boys. Clearly there is a lot of scope for improvement here”. Professor O’Mullane noted that a number of councils around the country had voted against water fluoridation while a number of TDs and Senators had also said they were opposed to  it. He urged them to focus on the science and not to use the issue as a political football. “This is a very important public health issue. It is a very traumatic experience for four and five year olds when they have to have teeth extracted under general or local anaesthetic. What sort of research are these politicians drawing on? What is the scientific basis for their arguments? I would urge councillors to take account of the consequences of their actions. 

A reversal of fluoridation will lead to an increase in dental decay. It is as simple as that” Professor O’Mullane concluded.