Deprivation equals tooth decay

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Deprived children suffer most from tooth decay and also receive the greatest benefit from fluoride in water supplies, researchers said yesterday.

A team led by Dr Colwyn Jones, from Wigan and Bolton Health Authority, found increasing levels of tooth decay in five-year-olds living in deprived areas. They also discovered that fluoridation reduced levels of tooth decay by the greatest amount in poor areas - the more deprived the area, the more children benefited from fluoride in water. The findings, published in the British Medical Journal today, prompted an urgent call from the authors for more fluoridation.

The dental records of a random sample of children were studied in three regions - Hartlepool, where the water is naturally fluoridated, Newcastle and North Tyneside, where water is artificially fluoridated, and Salford and Trafford, where there is no fluoridation. Analysis showed an overall 44 per cent reduction in tooth decay in fluoridated areas, which increased to 54 per cent in areas of greatest socio-economic deprivation.