The British Dental Health Foundation welcomed the High Court's decision to rule the plans to fluoridate Southampton's water supply was not illegal and urged more to follow suit after claims the local Primary Care Trust acted unlawfully was rejected.

At a judicial review,Mr Justice Holman dismissed the legal challenge against the process, rejecting claims by resident Geraldine Milner that the decision-making process was "defective".

The proposal by Southampton City Primary Care Trust to increase the level of fluoride in water to one part per million, was given the go-ahead in February 2009 after research showed the move would significantly improve dental health.

Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, welcomes the decision and hopes it will lead to more of the country's health authorities following suit.

Dr Carter said: "The verdict will be of a great benefit to an area where tooth decay amongst under-fives has been a problem. Though there has been opposition, robust scientific research supports the fact that fluoride significantly improves oral health and there is no evidence to suggest that it can have any negative impact on overall health.

"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."

Although water fluoridation schemes have been in place in the UK for more than 40 years, only around five-and-a-half million people have been drinking water from a fluoridated area.

The scheme, which has been on hold for 14 months, was legally challenged by a local resident. The South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA) reportedly set aside £400,000 for the proceedings consistently argued they met or exceeded all their legal requirements.

The SHA said that it was happy to go ahead with the plan to fluoridate the water supply, as research from the Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks has proven that adding fluoride to water is safe, as well as being an effective means of improving oral health.

Dr Carter added: "Fluoridation is the most important single measure that the UK Government can take to bring a substantial change in the nation's dental health. The Foundation is calling for Government to facilitate the rapid introduction of fluoride into the nation's water supplies, particularly in areas of social and economic deprivation."

Notes

- Full decision

- Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks: 2010

- EDM on fluoridation effects in Birmingham

- An Adult Dental Health Survey, released in December, found that there was a strong relationship between socio-economic status and the average number of decayed teeth. The report, which examined more than 1,000 people from each SHA in the UK, found that adults from routine and manual occupational homes had almost double the number of decayed or unsound teeth than adults from professional and managerial households.

Source:
British Dental Health Foundation