The Quebec government was urged yesterday to force the city of Montreal to fluoridate its water supply and end what is described as “an epidemic of tooth decay” among the city’s preschoolers.
A coalition that claims to represent dentists, physicians, dental hygienists and social workers wants deputy health minister Alain Poirier to invoke Article 55 of the Public Health Act, which would require the city to implement recommendations regarding fluoridation made last year by the city’s public health director, Richard Lessard.
Lessard sent a letter to Mayor Gerald Tremblay last June urging the city to fluoridate Montreal’s drinking water as quickly as possible. Tremblay – like other Montreal mayors before him – refuses to act, claiming there is no consensus on the benefits of fluoridation.
Stephane Schwartz, head of the Coalition de Montreal pour des dents en sante, told a news conference yesterday there is incontrovertible evidence that fluoridation stops tooth decay.
The most obvious example, she said, was the city of Dorval’s experience. During the two years the suburb stopped fluoridating its water supply so it could to upgrade its water filtration plant, cavities there increased, she says.
Last year, the city of Montreal tried to force Dorval to stop fluoridation altogether, claiming Montreal has the right to control all the island’s municipal infrastructures. Dorval appealed; the Quebec government overruled Montreal and allowed Dorval to continue to use the cavity-fighting process.
“The law is clear. It stipulates that when the government identifies a risk to public health it has the right to intervene,” Schwartz said. “It took action in Dorval. If Montreal doesn’t want to believe its own public health officials, the time has come to ask the province to intervene.”
Schwartz, head of the department of dentistry at Montreal Children’s Hospital, says 70 per cent of preschool youngsters in certain Montreal neighbourhoods have evidence of tooth decay.
“Think of it: If even 15 per cent of children in the city were infected with a gastrointestinal virus, or with bacterial fever, everyone would be crying for government action. Tooth decay is a serious health problem of epidemic proportions. In the years Dorval stopped fluoridation (2003-06), the rate of tooth decay in children doubled from eight per cent in 2003 to 16 per cent in 2006.”
Proponents of fluoride say the process helps to build strong teeth from the bone out and protects enamel from being eaten away by bacteria.