In America, the fluoridation of public water supplies has been implemented since the 1960s. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that has been clinically proven to stave off tooth decay and prevent cavities and over 70 percent of the American population enjoys the additional perk of fluoride being added to their community water sources.
Data collected internationally in 2004 has shown that approximately 400 million people around the world have been drinking fluoridated water, Britain has been lagging behind. That is about to change courtesy of a high court ruling.
Despite the scientific evidence supporting adding fluoride to public water supplies, "Only 10% of the UK (mainly the West Midlands and North East) receives fluoridated water" (British Dental Association February 2001, http://www.bfsweb.org/facts/wf_uknworld/f_wf_uknworld.htm). While the UK has been home to water fluoridation practices for more than four decades, a scant 8 percent of the total population has been drinking fluoridated water.
MedicalNewsToday.com estimates that approximately 5,500,000 UK residents out of a whopping total of 61,838,000, consume fluoridated drinking. In a move to improve dental health of residents, the Southampton City Primary Care Trust has been working towards increasing water fluoridation levels to the American standard. The move was faced with legal challenges courtesy of a local resident, however the local high court found in the favor of the Trust. The hope from the British Dental Health Foundation is that more communities will follow the fluoridation process in order to effectively aid the nation's battle with tooth erosion.
Dr. Nigel Carter of the British Dental Health Foundation is encouraged by the news as he has seen the positive effects of fluoride first hand. Carter has said "Fluoride was added to the Birmingham supply in 1964 and the difference in dental health compared to the neighbouring population in non-fluoridated Sandwell was stark. When Sandwell's water was fluoridated in 1987 it transformed levels of oral health, putting a poor borough amongst the top ten areas for dental health in the country" (Medicalnewstoday.com).
Within the nation, the U.S. Public Health Service recommend water fluoridation as a practice in 1951 and in 1960 the compound started to be added to public water supplies. The scientific research encouraging the activity has roots from the 1920s observations of New York dentist Frederick McKay. At that time, there was a rumor that children in Oakley, Idaho had high levels of tooth discoloration (AKA mottled teeth). McKay and H. B. Smith of Jerome, Idaho noticed that the only children who drank from the local water source were afflicted with the condition. In response to that insight, the city of Oakley spend thousands on building new wells. The new community water source had trace elements of fluoride and the children who drank that water avoided tooth discoloration.
Based on that initial conclusion, research continued. In the 1950s, information was published explaining the oral health benefits of fluoride, water and tooth decay. Once the U.S. National Institutes of Health tested the theory by adding approximately 1 mg/L of fluoride to Grand Rapids, Michigan water supplies and studying the direct correlation to dental health, the water fluoridation scheme was born.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been a huge advocate of the fluoride/oral health connection and has stated, "Fluoride is needed throughout the lifespan to prevent and control tooth decay." Experts in the field have suggested that fluoride consumption from birth provides the best long-term results for oral health as fluoride has proven to improve tooth enamel, break down oral bacteria on teeth and prevent tooth erosion.