A top New Plymouth dentist is calling for the newly-elected council to put fluoride back in the water, but new mayor Andrew Judd says it’s not a priority.
Taranaki District Health Board dental clinical director Dave Antunovic said referenda in other cities showing support for fluoridated water should send a message to the council.
“The New Plymouth District Council now has an opportunity to listen to the health experts, look at feedback from other communities and reverse the decision made by the previous council.”
But Mr Judd said he will prioritise the issues the community thinks are important – and fluoride is not one of them.
Mr Judd said he had received barely any interest in the fluoridation issue, although he had expected to.
“On my campaign trail there was only one person who asked about it,” he said.
Mr Judd would not comment on whether the NPDC would hold a referendum on the return of fluoridation.
“If there’s a mood in the community we will look at it.”
In referenda at the weekend Hamilton (70 per cent), Whakatane (60 per cent) and Hastings (63 per cent) voted for fluoride to be put back in their water supplies.
NPDC decided to remove fluoride from the town’s water supply two years ago.
New Plymouth orthodontist Julian Haszard said he had already begun to see the effects of removing fluoride, and it was far more widespread than the lower social economic bracket.
He said fluoridation counter-acted the effects on young people’s teeth from consuming high levels of sugar.
“Diets have changed so much in the last 40 years, intensely sugary drinks are cheap and accessible.
“They’ve got away with it because of the protection.”
Mr Haszard said sugar from energy drinks and soft drinks had a demineralisation effect on teeth, which was reversed by fluoride.
The DHB is running a region-wide research project into the effect of removing fluoride but results will not be available for five years.
Mr Haszard also volunteers in Nepal, where he said the people were stunned at New Plymouth’s decision to remove fluoride from its water.
New Zealand was able to offer help to countries with their dental care because it held a position of strength, he said.
“It’s such an irony – here we are removing the thing that gives us that strength.”