Has fluoridating Prince George’s water for the past 50 years actually helped prevent cavities?
“Despite years of fluoridation, we don’t look very good,” said Tracey Brown who, along with Dave Fuller, is behind the ‘no’ campaign for the November 15 referendum on whether to stop fluoridating the city’s water.
They point to a Ministry of Health provincial and regional analysis, entitled BC Dental Survey of Kindergarten Children 2012-2013 published in May of this year, as proof.
The study examines dental caries (cavities) in each of the five health regions. Of the five regions, the Northern Health region fares the lowest in the number of children who were caries-free (60.6 per cent/B.C. average 67.3 per cent), the highest number who had treated caries (19.9 per cent/B.C. average 18.1 per cent), and the highest number who had visible tooth decay (19.5 per cent/B.C. average 14.6 per cent).
All this after having fluoridated water in Prince George for 50 years and in many other cities as well. However, Prince Rupert stopped fluoridating its water in 2009, Mackenzie in 2002, Burns Lake in 2003, Kitimat in 1998, and Smithers in 1990.
That could leave the door open to suggest that the higher rate of dental caries in Northern Health are a result of communities ceasing to fluoridate water supplies.
That, however, flies in the face of the fact that even though a large percentage of Northern Health children drink fluoridated water, they don’t fare as well as other areas of the province where water isn’t fluoridated.
According to the B.C. Medical Journal, only 11 per cent of B.C. homes receive fluoridated water. However, those 11 per cent of homes, only translate into 3.7 per cent of the population.
In other words, there are fewer dental caries in areas of the province that, for the most part, don’t fluoridate the water.
On top of that, Fuller and Brown point out that British Columbia fares better than other provinces in Canada, in terms of fewer dental caries, than most other provinces, even though other provinces have much higher percentages of the population receiving fluoridated water.
“(Fluoridating water) is something that makes no sense,” said Fuller. “It’s something they know is not working.”
Fuller uses the analogy of drinking suntan lotion … you just wouldn’t do it and think you would be protected from the sun. Drinking fluoridated water is the same, he says, because fluoride is an effective topical agent to help teeth. Once ingested, it does nothing to help your teeth.
“Education works and access to dental care is what works to improve dental health,” said Brown.
And the Ministry of Health study seems to support that.
“From 2006-2007 to 2012-2013, the oral health of kindergarten children has improved across the province,” the report’s executive summary states. “This trend points to the success of early intervention programs aimed at improving the oral health of young children. To further support early prevention of dental caries, universal and enhanced dental public health service statements were developed in 2013 to outline the services that should be offered.”
In 2005, funding to health authorities was increased to boost early childhood dental health programs, including providing information on oral hygiene to families, application of fluoride varnish for children identified as being at risk, promoting healthy eating habits, and applying a “dental health lens” to policy development.
About the Author
Bill Phillips is the editor of the Prince George Free Press. He was the winner of the 2007 Best Columnist award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association?s Ma Murray awards. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist awards and, in 2003, placed second.