EVERY day that goes by without fluoride in Hampshire’s tap water, children are missing out.

That is the message from health professionals who insist the delayed controversial scheme is the best way to improve dental health in Southampton.

It is nearly four years since NHS bosses unanimously approved plans to add the chemical to tap water delivered to nearly 200,000 people, but it is still not in place.

A lengthy legal challenge by opponents and work to finalise details of how the scheme will work mean health chiefs admit they still don’t know exactly when it will be implemented.

And that delay is causing frustration among some dentists and health professionals in Southampton.

Dr Jeyanthi John, a consultant in dental public health for Southampton and Hampshire, said fluoridation is still needed to reduce high levels of tooth decay in children.

She said: “We’re missing out on the benefits every day and year that goes by without it in place.

“We still have 450 to 500 children having teeth extracted under general anaesthetic every year – that hasn’t changed.

“We have teams going out to carry out health promotion in the community and they’re still seeing high levels of decay, and dentists are still seeing high levels of decay.

“The local dental community ask me every time I go out to them when the fluoridation scheme is going to be in place and why it hasn’t happened.

“Our local health professionals have reiterated their support for the water fluoridation scheme.”

Despite claims from opponents that fluoridation is not effective and carries the risk of health problems, Dr John said she believes it will bring major benefits.

She said: “Over the last ten years Southampton children’s dental health has always been shown to be poor compared to other places.

“We would like to see Southampton children have the best dental health in the country.

“We’re halfway down the list at the moment, which is very poor from our point of view.

“We looked at areas around the country to see who has achieved the best dental health and it’s in the West Midlands, where they have a combination of methods using a population-wide measure like water fluoridation supplemented with targeted oral health initiatives that encourage children to brush their teeth.

“We looked at that and thought we wanted it for us.

“We have those community measures and will continue them.

“Fluoridation reaches everyone in the community, whereas all the other things we do it ends up with only those people who attend.

“Poor dental health is more prevalent in people from more deprived backgrounds.

These are the groups who are least likely to access some kind of health care.

“They will benefit even if they don’t eat the right foods all the time.”