A staggering 16 per cent of Year 6 schoolchildren in the northeast suffered from tooth decay last year.

This is a shocking statistic given it is almost entirely preventable and can cause intense pain and discomfort.

But perhaps even more stark is the fact that children in the most deprived areas of the country are more than twice as likely to suffer tooth decay than those in the least deprived.

Healthy teeth are a vital factor for good quality of life and this inequality is causing young children from poorer areas to suffer unnecessary impacts on their wider health and wellbeing.

We know that simple measures like brushing with fluoride toothpaste can prevent decay, but some children and vulnerable adults need more support.

Water fluoridation is a simple and effective measure that can have a really positive impact on those who are more susceptible to tooth decay.

Fluoride is a natural mineral that can help.

It has been added in safe quantities to water supplies around the country for decades, including the north east, and research has shown improvements in the number of young children reporting issues with their teeth.

Widening this scheme to a further 1.6 million people in the region will bring universal benefits to the population, but especially more vulnerable young children and adults.

A consultation has been launched today (Monday) asking for people’s views on the expansion of this scheme.

For the purpose of tackling inequalities, improving the health of our young children and more vulnerable adults, and providing a safe, simple and effective measure that will benefit all of us, it has my complete backing.