INVESTIGATIVE work has been launched to consider whether fluoride should be added to the drinking water of a town with a high proportion of children with tooth decay.

Darlington’s director of public health Miriam Davidson said the town’s council was taking part with neighbouring authorities in a technical appraisal to look at the feasibility of introducing a community fluoridation scheme.

Among the issues being examined is whether water fluoridation can be introduced in one borough without having to introduce it in a neighbouring area.

Darlington Borough Council’s health and wellbeing board heard the authority was also gathering evidence from professionals about fluoridation.

The meeting was told while Hartlepool, which has natural fluoride in its water, had 15 per cent of five-year-olds with decayed, filled or missing teeth, the figure in Darlington was 35 per cent.

Members were told while Stockton’s figure was ten per cent below that of Darlington, part of Stockton is supplied with water by Hartlepool.

Ms Davidson said water fluoridation was both the most effective and cheapest intervention.

She added: “Water fluoridation can reduce the likelihood of experience of decay as a safe public health measure. It is suitable for consideration in localities where dental decay are a cause for concern. It is a valuable public health intervention.

“The inequality with poor oral health is stark. There are some parts of our community where oral health is much poorer.”

Ms Davidson said while some areas of the region had seen improvements in children’s oral health, there had been “no measurable improvement” in the prevalence of tooth decay experience in five-year-old children in Darlington over the past few years.

She said: “This council has not made a commitment to introducing a community water fluoridation scheme, but that responsibility since 2013 has accrued to the local authority.”