ORILLIA – Public health officials are urging the city to fluoridate Orillia’s water to address concerns over the state of local teeth.
Medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said Orillia’s children have the highest rates of decayed, missing, extracted and filled teeth in a study of Simcoe-Muskoka’s 10 largest communities.
Fluoridation of municipal drinking water is a safe and effective method to address poor dental health, he said during a presentation this week.
“The evidence is strong,” Gardner added.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that can reduce dental decay by as much 40 per cent when added to drinking water, he added.
“It benefits all ages,” said Gardner, noting that low-income families are at higher risk of dental decay.
“They often lack other means, such as affordable, preventative dental care,” he added.
Councillors agreed to hold public consultations on the proposal to fluoridate Orillia’s water supply.
Coun. Michael Fogarty supports the measure, arguing that many in the community cannot afford regular dental care.
“This is a preventative step that we should be taking that will make a difference in many lives,” said Fogarty.
Gardner acknowledged that fluoridation had faced opposition since its inception about 60 years ago, much of it based on inaccurate information that continues to be perpetuated with regards to alleged health concerns.
Gardner acknowledged that elevated levels of fluoride consumption could lead to discoloration of teeth.
However, in the concentrations seen in a municipal water supply, only a small percentage of the population would see white streaking of teeth.
Even then, the discoloration would only be apparent in a dental examine, he said.
Gardner noted that the concentration of fluoride found in toothpaste is 1,000 greater than the amount found in municipal water supplies.
Public works director Peter Dance said that water fluoridation was twice rejected in Orillia- first in the 1960s and then in the late1980s.
Outfitting the water filtration plant and West Orillia well would cost between $50,000 and $100,000.
Annual operating costs would be $25,000, he added.
More than three quarters of Ontario communities have fluoridated water, Gardner said.
Dance noted Orillia’s water supply has a small amount of naturally occurring fluoride, adding that the concentration is below the recommended amount to help prevent tooth decay.