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Monday, 25 January, 1999, 11:23 GMT
Fluoridation 'benefits all'
Teeth
Fluoride protects teeth at all ages
The fluoridation of water supplies benefits elderly people as well as children, dentists have said.

The British Dental Association has published a report that shows putting fluoride in drinking water can have widespread benefits for people as they get older.

The BDA is calling on the government to make a strong commitment to water fluoridation in the forthcoming white paper on Public Health.

Dentists want fluoridation extended to cover 25% of the UK population.

At present, 10% of people in the UK receive fluoridated water supplies.

The BDA report, Water fluoridation: Something for older people to smile about, says most people are aware of the benefits of fluoridation for children, but not of the benefits later in life.

Tap water
Fluoride is added to some tap water supplies
A form of tooth decay, root surface decay, which is particularly difficult to treat can be a significant problem for older people.

Older adults often have less manual dexterity and reduced saliva flow, the report says. This makes keeping teeth clean more difficult.

In addition their gums tend to recede, causing the root surface of the teeth to become exposed and increasing the risk of root surface decay.

Although many older people are not aware that they are at risk, the condition is often extensive, and can be difficult to treat because when fillings are placed, more decay often develops at the edge of the filling.

The 1988 adult dental health survey showed that more than nine out of t10 people over 45 had some root surface exposed. Almost all over 65s were at risk of root surface decay.

In fluoridated areas adults keep more of their own teeth longer, and have much less trouble with them.

Strengthening enamel

Dentists used to think that fluoride worked by being taken up and strengthening the developing enamel of children's teeth.

However, it is now known that the effect of fluoride on the surfaces of teeth after they have erupted into the mouth is even more important, and that all ages stand to benefit from water flourdation.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Association, John Hunt, said: "Water fluoridation means less tooth decay, less pain, fewer fillings and fewer emergency visits to the dentist, and not just for children.

"Tooth decay can be very painful, and can make teeth unsightly. It is a preventable disease and is the main cause of tooth loss in all age groups. Prevention means a better quality of life for older adults and less money spent on dental care."

The World Health Organisation, the Royal College of Physicians and the Department of Health have endorsed water fluoridation as safe.

See also:

03 Nov 98 | Health
20 Jan 99 | Health
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