MORE than 60 Victorian towns remain without a fluoridated drinking water supply despite health authorities and the State Government spruiking the oral health benefits to children.
Melbourne and some regional areas have had fluoridated drinking water for almost 40 years.
Fluoride was introduced to Maryborough and Kilmore water supplies earlier this year.
But 63 towns with 1000-plus residents still have no access to fluoridated water, leaving many children suffering decay, pain and the humiliation of bad teeth.
With a population of more than 8000, Ararat is the biggest town without the public healthcare initiative, followed by Healesville (7104) and Leongatha (6860).
The Health Department has announced Ararat will have fluoridated water by the year’s end.
Ararat mother of four Emily Toner said her children’s oral health was a high priority for her, teaching them appropriate dental care practices from an early age and taking them to the dentist for six-monthly check-ups.
Knowing the benefits of fluoridated drinking water to her children’s teeth, Ms Toner said she was surprised it had not been introduced into her home town sooner.
“It’s crazy when you think so many other areas have had it for so long with proven results in reducing cavities in children and we haven’t,” she said.
Ms Toner, 40, wasn’t concerned about the disproved negative claims peddled by anti-fluoride activists, linking it to a lower IQ and autism in children.
The National Health and Medical Research Council recommends fluoride for all water supplies, saying it was proved to prevent cavities while causing no other ill health effects.
It is the responsibility of the Department of Health and Human Services secretary to direct water companies to fluoridate drinking water supplies across the state.
In some areas without fluoridated water, including the town of Daylesford northwest of Melbourne, there has been opposition from some who do not want their water treated with the chemical.
Health and Human Services department spokesman Bram Alexander said fluoride was being introduced “progressively” and 90 per cent of Victorians now had access to it.
“In Victoria, water fluoridation has always received bipartisan support and is recognised as an important public health measure that is equitable, safe and helps protect everybody’s teeth against decay, regardless of age, gender, income or education levels,” Mr Alexander said.
The department admits on its website that tooth decay is still a significant problem in Victoria.
In 2013-14, more than 4400 Victorian kids under the age of 10, including 193 two-year-olds and 694 four-year-olds, required general anaesthetics in hospital for treatment of dental decay.
A staggering 95 per cent of all preventable dental admissions to hospital for children aged up to nine years are due to dental decay, the department said.
An Australian Research Centre for Population Oral Health study examining the effectiveness of water fluoridation on children’s dental health across four states, including Victoria, showed children, aged five to six, who have lived for more than half their lives in areas with water fluoridation have 50 per cent less tooth decay.
In the United States, water fluoridation is dubbed as among the top 10 public health initiatives of the 20th century.
It has had no recorded adverse health effects on any person in Victoria.