On Monday, Sept. 23, Committee of the Whole Council of the Town of New Tecumseth voted to submit application to discontinue community water fluoridation (CWF) in the town of Tottenham. As the Medical Officer of Health for Simcoe and Muskoka, I encourage council to reconsider this decision when it meets again on Sept. 30 to ratify the actions of Monday’s meeting. Considering council’s discussions on Monday, I would recommend deferral to allow the town more time to make a fully informed decision. Thus, I encourage participation of citizens in this process by contacting their councillors with their views.
Community water fluoridation is the adjustment of the fluoride concentration in fluoride-deficient water supplies to a level recommended for optimal oral health. Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that has been used in drinking water across the world to prevent dental decay for more than 60 years. In Ontario, about 76 per cent of the population has access to fluoridated public water supplies.
The need to continue fluoridation of Tottenham’s drinking supply is amply supported by the evidence of its success in the years that the drinking supply has been fluoridated. Outside Base Borden, Tottenham is the only community with fluoridated water in Simcoe County. The health unit’s own screening data between 2011 and 2013 shows that Tottenham’s children have a lower rate of dental decay than Simcoe Muskoka communities without CWF.
Despite the excellent track record of community water fluoridation, some have expressed health concerns. Systematic (scientific) reviews, including from Health Canada, have examined alleged outcomes regarding safety, including: cancer, skeletal fluorosis, intelligence quotient (IQ), immunotoxicity, reproductive and developmental toxicity, DNA toxicity, and neurotoxicity. This research has concluded that community water fluoridation does not increase the risk of these conditions. Although dental fluorosis – a staining of the teeth, usually white in colour – can occur with excessive intake of fluoride, CWF on its own does not cause cosmetically apparent fluorosis.
The cavity reduction benefits of CWF go over and beyond other good oral health behaviours such as brushing with fluoridated toothpaste and topical application of fluoride. CWF benefits all: the young and aged, and across all income levels, especially protecting the oral health of those who lack the means to pursue adequate dental care. CWF translates not only into improved oral health, but also into a reduction in costs both to individuals and the community. For every $1 spent on CWF, it is estimated that costs in dental treatment spending are reduced by $38.
As your Medical Officer of Health, I support community water fluoridation in the community of Tottenham, and encourage the councillors of New Tecumseth to allow themselves the time to consider this issue carefully and give it the full consideration and community input that it deserves.
Medical Officer of Health
Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit