Authorities are taking a big risk with children’s health if they introduce fluoride-free water, one of the country’s most senior dentists has claimed.
With councils in Dublin and Cork backing calls for its removal from public supplies, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) said all the scientific evidence shows fluoridation helps reduce tooth decay.
Ireland is the only country in the EU and one of only two in the world which has a mandatory system of adding fluoride to water.
Anti-fluoride groups earlier this month got backing for their campaign to stop the practice from Dublin City councillors, following the example in Cork city last March.
Dr John Walsh, dean of the Faculty of Dentistry in the RCSI, dismissed their argument and called on parents to do away with daily sweet treats to help improve dental health.
“All of the robust scientific data demonstrates that fluoridation protects against tooth decay,” he said.
“Studies of children’s oral health consistently showed that those living in areas with fluoridated water had 18% less tooth decay than those living in non-fluoridated areas. To ignore this evidence is taking a big health risk.”
The RSCI said dental surgeries are full of children under seven already showing signs of irreparable tooth decay as a direct result of too much sugar sweetened drink and treats.
Dr Walsh said healthy eating policies introduced in schools are a positive step.
“If parents can replicate this behaviour in the home and dispense with daily treats we would see positive results,” he said.
The RCSI said Irish children, particularly toddlers and young children, continue to suffer from high levels of dental decay because of the consumption of biscuits, sweets and sugary soft drinks and insufficient tooth brushing.
The Irish Dental Association recognises that fluoridation is contentious but points to evidence of it being the most practical, cost-effective and safe public health measure to control tooth decay.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland insists fluoride concentrations in public drinking water pose no known medical problems.
The RCSI made its calls at an international scientific meeting it hosted in Dublin on Current Controversies in Dental Practice attended by more than 200 delegates.