The fluoridation issue is not complicated, Dr Dorothy Boyd says
It is simply an opportunity for as many people as possible to have better teeth.
Our teeth are the front line of a constant war, explains the specialist dentist who is the senior public health dentist with Publikc Health South.
Acids in our mouth break down the minerals such as calcium and phosphate that make up our teeth, while our saliva hardens the teeth by putting back those important minerals.
“Demineralisation and remineralisation is going on a lot of the time.”
Fluoride fights for our teeth by slowing the dissolving process and speeding the hardening.
“It also strengthens the tooth’s surface enamel.
“We used to think that was the most important aspect, but now we know it is its effect on that equilibrium.”
You can get too much fluoride, but the negative effects from the levels of fluoride people are exposed to in New Zealand are negligible, she says.
“Fluoride in toothpaste was a big advance in dental health, but you can get fluorosis by eating toothpaste.
“The best practice is to spit but not rinse, so you get rid of the excess but keep the fluoride on the teeth.”
Fluorosis was mottling of the teeth – patchy white discolouration – but it had no health implications, Dr Boyd said.
“The evidence is not there for any other effects.
“You can always find a paper that fits your theory, but if you look at 50 papers the evidence isn’t there.”
Opposition groups play an important role – “keeping us on our toes.”
“We have to keep looking at the evidence.
“But we must keep in mind that life is risky and we must compare the risks and the benefits.”
The anti-fluoridation argument to which she takes greatest exception is the one that people should have the right to not have fluoride in their water.
“It is the argument about choice. But in a functioning community, I believe we should be taking care of everyone and not say ‘I’m all right Jack, and I don’t care about what happens to disadvantaged children.’”
This is the core of Dr Boyd’s support for fluoridating drinking water – it is the best means available to get fluoride on to the teeth of as many people as possible.
CAPTION UNDER PHOTO OF DR. BOYD
Community service: Fluoridation is helping those who need it most, Dr Dorothy Boyd says.