Calls for water fluoridation as nearly 40% of Leicester's five-year-olds have decaying teeth

ITV Central Health Correspondent Nancy Cole hears from a dentist who backs calls to add fluoride to Leicester's drinking water.

Leicester's water supply could be fluoridated in efforts to reduce the levels of tooth decay in the city.

The City Council is proposing the process of fluoridation, which could take between five and ten years, by writing to the Secretary of State.

A similar proposal was made by Nottingham and Nottinghamshire councillors in January 2024.

Latest figures show 37.8% of five year olds in Leicester had at least one decayed, missing or filled tooth in 2022.

This is the 9th highest figure out of the 132 local authorities that provided data to the Oral Health Survey.

This OHS also found Leicester 5-year-olds to be significantly more likely to have decay experience if they lived in a more deprived area (41%) or if they were of Asian or Asian British ethnicity (44%).

Areas where water is fluoridated such as Walsall, Wolverhampton and Birmingham have lower rates of tooth decay when compared to Leicester.

Birmingham was the first permanent scheme to commence in 1964.

The impact of high rates of tooth decay on a local population can be increased hospital admissions, school absences, poor nutrition and poor development among children. In adulthood, dental decay is associated with cardiovascular and lung disease.

Fluoridation can provide an effective way of preventing dental decay and the associated risk.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) said it is considering widening out water fluoridation across the country.

It said: "Studies since the 1930s have shown that access to fluoride in drinking water is associated with a reduced level of dental decay.

"The Secretary of State will continue to be responsible for reimbursing water undertakers for costs associated with water fluoridation schemes."

Dr Niger Carter of the Oral Health Foundation previously said: "We believe that water fluoridation is the single most effective public health measure there is for reducing oral health inequalities and tooth decay rates, especially amongst children.

"We welcome these proposals and believe they represent an opportunity to take a big step forward in not only improving this generation’s oral health, but those for decades to come."