BALLARAT’S dental crisis could be eased by water fluoridation, ac-cording to city health workers, but staunch opposers warn the poten-tial side effects could be far worse.
Ballarat and District Division of General Practice chairman Mark Churcher said the city’s prevalence of dental visitation was three times higher than Melbourne, which has fluoride in its water.
“Dental visitation is three times higher and the holes (cavities) are three times more severe,” Dr Churcher said. “This results is more chronic gum infections and people who have chronic infections have other health problems.”
Dr Churcher said patients rely-ing on the city’s subsidised dental clinic were being forced to wait six to 12 months for treatment. “Even for an emergency there may still be a couple of weeks wait.” Dr Churcher said.
He believes water fluoridation would help tackle the city’s high incidence of tooth decay.
“There is such a large volume of people with dental problems, if we started fluoride in the water there would be less new people using the system – we would see less kids.”
Dr Churcher said there was overwhelming evidence that sup-ported water fluoridation.
“Almost all the studies that show health problems are quite flawed,” he said
Ballarat Health Watch spokes-person Alwyn Anstis said fluoride could prevent tooth decay because it attacked the enzymes that caused it, but it also attacked other enzymes throughout the body. “Fluoride can cause fluorosis, causing teeth to have a white and brown mottled appearance,” Mr Anstis said.
“Not only does this happen to teeth it happens to bones in the body which can lead to hip frac-tures in later life. It makes the bones very brittle.” Mr Anstis said the State Govern-ment needed to look at other ways to tackle poor dental health. “They see fluoride as the be all and end all – it isn’t, it’s far from it. “You’ve got to look at people’s general health and diet.”
Mr Anstis believes more than 70 per cent of Ballarat residents are opposed to water fluoridation. “The majority of people are against it.”