Calgary pediatric dentists are noticing big changes in their young patients’ dental health since the city’s fluoridation program ended in 2011, and it’s not good.
With the fluoride gone, Dr. Sarah Hulland, president of the Alberta Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, said kids are coming into her office with bigger cavities than historically seen before.
“More importantly, the progression to getting larger from go is much more rapid, which is really bad,” Hulland said.
Dr. Leonard Smith, who has been working as a pediatric dentist in Calgary for 42 years, said he noticed an improvement in his patients’ teeth after fluoride was introduced.
“Now we’re seeing again the horror stories in a younger population of children since they’ve taken the fluoride out,” Smith said, citing higher levels of decay in young children and even babies as young as 11 months.
“I predicted we’d see a big increase 12 months from the time the city took it out. We are busier.”
He acknowledges that fluoride alone does not stop dental decay cold, but it helps prevent dental problems primarily in the high-risk population by changing the density of the enamel and making it more resistant to acids produced by bacteria.
Hulland said she’s not confident city council would be willing to address the fluoride topic again, but added she wished council members would have been more willing to consider the information and knowledge of dentists, particularly those working with kids and in public health.
If the issue comes to council again, Hulland said there should be a plebiscite.
“Personally, I would like to see the fluoride brought back,” she said. “People benefiting from fluoride are lower income or on a fixed income. It’s not just pediatrics but also geriatrics, and it’s shameful we’re putting so much disrespect and disregard on that subpopulation.”
The city agreed to spend $750,000 — the same amount it would have spent adding the substance to the drinking water supply — to go to anti-cavity programs for children in need who are living in poverty.
But Hulland said the city has not consulted or updated pediatric dentists on the programs.
Ward 2 Ald. Gord Lowe, who voted against removing fluoride from the water, said he is “not the least bit surprised” to hear pediatric dentists reporting an increase in cavities among children.
“I was appalled when council took that decision,” Lowe said. “It was dead wrong, in my view.”
But Ward 7 Ald. Druh Farrell, who spearheaded the removal of fluoride from municipal drinking water, said cavities are on the rise across North America, including cities that fluoridate their water.
She said she’d prefer Alberta Health Services to address the problem in some other way.
Farrell also said she’s heard little on the issue since council scrapped fluoride treatment. “It’s gone quiet. It’s over.”
— With files from Jason Markusoff, Calgary Herald
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