DENTAL health in the Eurobodalla Shire was this week described as disgraceful and third world, with councillors being shown disturbing photographs to support the claim.
In the time between the works and development committee meetings on Tuesday a presentation on fluoridation was made by John Irving, Project Manager Oral Health with the Health Department, supported by retired Moruya dental surgeon Graeme Thomas. Mr Irving had driven down from Taree to deliver the half-hour presentation, councillors were told.
After hearing them, councillors called for a report from water manager Carmel Krogh on fluoridation of the shire’s water supplies.
Mr Irving showed a graph demonstrating a dramatic fall in tooth decay from 1956 when fluoridation of NSW water supplies began until a few years ago when a slight rise began due, he said, to dietary factors.
Fluoridation of water supplies accounted for 70 per cent of that reduction, he said, 26 per cent to fluoride in toothpaste, and two per cent to fluoride tablets, a method that was no longer approved.
Fluoridation of water supplies had had a “mammoth effect,” he said.
It not only prevented decay, it repaired tooth enamel with the benefits shown across all ages.
For every dollar invested in fluoridating water supplies there was a $38 saving in dental costs, he said, telling councillors that the State Government would pay capital costs of the necessary plant, with councils meeting recurrent expenses. That was between 80 cents and $1.20 a year for each resident.
He said a survey through the State has shown between 62 and 80 per cent support for fluoridation.
And compared with the rest of the State, Eurobodalla Shire had a much higher percentage of decayed, missing or filled teeth, he added.
Health Department officer Lyndall Parker told councillors that after years of working in fluoridated areas she had been “blown away” by the state of teeth here.
“The condition of children’s teeth here is something I have not been used to in 25 years,” she said, handing out examples of diseased teeth to councillors.
She was backed by Mr Thomas, who said fluoridation had come in during his 50 years’ work in dentistry. When it was introduced, he said, it was thought only children would benefit, but it had been found adults did too.
Including himself, but after five years in Moruya his teeth started to decay.
He said the state of teeth in Eurobodalla Shire was such as he hadn’t seen since the 1950s. “It’s absolutely disgraceful. Third world stuff.”
He wasn’t claiming fluoridation was the complete answer, he went on. A multi-pronged approach was needed, including more dentists.
“But the introduction of fluoridation would give us some control.”
In answer to Cr Chris Kowal, Mr Irving said the benefits of fluoridating water supplies was shown immediately it was introduced.