BFS welcomes new public opinion survey supporting water fluoridation in Scotland

The British Fluoridation Society (BFS) welcomes the findings of its latest academic survey which confirms public support in Scotland for water fluoridation to improve oral health and combat dental health inequalities.

Today, no-one in Scotland benefits from artificial water fluoridation and there have been no recent reports published about public opinion on the issue.

Published in the British Dental Journal (BDJ) this month (August), the new report, commissioned by the BFS, titled: Public attitudes to water fluoridation in Scotland – Jones, C., Lowry, R. & Brophy, R. Br Dent J (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-022-4506-1, contains the results of a robust public opinion survey on community water fluoridation to address this absence.

The survey set out to gauge public attitudes in three urban areas of Scotland to determine respondents' sources of information, awareness of the current fluoridation status of their local water supply and attitude to community water fluoridation. It was conducted using a face-to-face interview with 410 people of mixed ages and gender.

Colwyn Jones, honorary senior lecturer at Edinburgh University, executive
member of the British Fluoridation Society and lead author of the report.

Colwyn Jones, honorary senior lecturer at Edinburgh University, an executive member of the British Fluoridation Society and lead author of the report, said: “The results demonstrate few people have heard recent news about water fluoridation, a minority of people believe they already have fluoridated water, and as in the rest of the UK, the majority of the Scottish population support community water fluoridation.

“Fluoride occurs naturally and on The Scottish Water website, I discovered that my home water supply, along with about 500,000 Edinburgh residents, is shared with the Scottish (Holyrood) Parliament. Last year it had a mean level of 0.12ppm fluoride. This natural level of the mineral fluoride, shared by Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) would need to be increased by a factor of around nine, to reduce tooth decay.

“However, owing not to dithering, but deliberate government inaction, no one benefits from water fluoridation in Scotland. The 2018 Scottish Oral Health Improvement Plan stated, ‘Although we recognise that water fluoridation could make a positive contribution to improvements in oral health, the practicalities of implementing this means we have taken the view that alternative solutions are more achievable.’ We belatedly await publication of these ‘alternative solutions.’”

This latest study follows from one conducted in Northeast England in 2021, titled: Public attitudes to water fluoridation in the North East of England – Lowry RJ, Brophy R, Lennon MA. Br Dent J 2021; https://doi.org/10.1038/s41415-021-3074-0).

Dr Ray Lowry, secretary to the British Fluoridation Society, explains: “When this Scottish study is placed in the context of other sufficiently robust national surveys conducted over the years, it is clear the level of opposition to water fluoridation remains consistently low. This is contrary to what opponents would have us believe.

“If seeking the opinions of the public is done in an open and unbiased way, the support for fluoridation remains high and this is now confirmed in Scotland. It is important that water fluoridation has the continued support of the public, but it is not enough to take it for granted. For its success to be achieved for the many, we need to ensure sure everyone understands the health benefits.”

Barry Cockroft BFS Chair

Barry Cockroft, former Chief Dental Officer for England, and chair of the British Fluoridation Society.

Barry Cockroft, former Chief Dental Officer for England, and chair of the British Fluoridation Society, adds: “Scotland was once a pioneer in trying to implement water fluoridation schemes, unfortunately none were achieved.

We hope that policy makers north of the border will now renew their efforts to introduce one of the best interventions to improve oral health now they know how out of step they have been with public opinion; it is telling that a considerable proportion of Scottish residents assumed this had all been done many years ago.”