A year after Calgary decided to cease putting fluoride in its drinking water, city council has yet to decide what to do with the $750,000 of annual savings.
The money was to be channelled toward low-income children who might be at a dental disadvantage without fluoridated water.
Nearly a quarter of the kids who are seen at a clinic at Village Square Leisure Centre have visible cavities by age four, according to Jacqueline VanMalsen, a dental hygienist.
VanMalsen works with the Mosaic Primary Care Network, a group providing frontline health care, particularly to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to it.
Mosaic does dental exams, offers fluoride varnishes and provides advice on oral hygiene for babies and toddlers in a catchment area that includes a large swatch of urban Calgary. A lot of those children don’t have a dentist, said the organization’s executive director, Jason Shenher.
“So it’s become a larger program than probably initially thought up, but the payback has been obviously huge,” he said.
Mosaic hopes to do more for more patients if it can get some of the money the city has promised to pass on from its fluoridation savings. The group is applying for some of the funds to expand to other parts of the city and older children.
“What that will entail is basically hiring more staff, expanding the hours and even to the extent of expanding our age group,” Shenher said. “Although we know we get the best bang for our dollar dealing with individuals under age three, we’d like to expand it to an older generation.”
Bogged down by reports
City council is still waiting for recommendations from its community services committee about how the money will be best spent.
Ward 8 Ald. John Mar, who chairs the committee, says it’s waiting in turn for more recommendations from city administrators.
“So we sent it back to go and do a more thorough examination about what else could be done, what have we done in other municipalities and what are the best practices in this field,” Mar said.
A report on those matters will be provided to the committee in the summer.
How should the city use the $750,000 it saved by ending water fluoridation? (Poll Closed)
–Use it to restart the fluoridation program 38.03% (621 votes)
–Put it towards dental work for low-income children 32.33% (528 votes)
–Save it until the proper reports come back 29.64% (484 votes)
–Total Votes: 1,633