THE state’s new top dentist has pleaded with all local governments to fluoridise their drinking water for the sake of children’s teeth.
Chief dentist Mark Brown said the Queensland Child Oral Health Survey 2010-12, to be released today, showed tooth decay in children was significantly higher in communities without fluoride. Children living in areas with water fluoridation, such as Townsville, were much less likely to have cavities or decay.
The report is based on dental examinations and parental surveys of more than 5400 children aged 5 to 14 in four areas of the state: Townsville, the rest of the northern region, Brisbane and southeast Queensland.
Townsville was particularly singled out because it has had water fluoridation since 1964.
Dr Brown said the report provided overwhelming evidence that water fluoridation resulted in reduced tooth decay, with Townsville children having the lowest prevalence of dental rot among all four regions.
For example, 35 per cent of Townsville 12 to 14 year olds had experienced decay in their permanent teeth, compared with 47 per cent of those living in the remainder of the northern region.
“The benefits of water fluoridation … are clear,” Dr Brown said.
“It certainly gives local governments who have pulled out of water fluoridation very strong evidence that they need to reconsider that position.”
The Newman Government overturned a decision by the previous Bligh administration to mandate fluoridation of water supplies by local government.
Although it continues in many areas, some local governments have opted out, including the Cairns, Rockhampton and Fraser Coast regional councils.
Australian Medical Association Queensland president Shaun Rudd said the State Government should restore the fluoridation mandate.
“It’s nothing new to put supplements in our food,” he said.
“We’ve got iodine in our salt, we’ve got folate in our bread.”
A spokesman for Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said he would not force local governments to fluoridate their water.
“Councils have a right to choose,” he said.
Government ministers backed the right of councils to decide if their local water supply should be fluoridated despite the findings of the new survey, which show it is beneficial.
Water Minister Mark McArdle said councils were best placed to decide what is best for their constituents.
“They are closer to the people at that level,” he said.
“They can canvas the concern of their own constituency and make that call themselves.”
Education Minister and dentist John-Paul Langbroek said while he believed councils should be adding fluoride to the water, he also backed the government’s decision to scrap its mandatory use and instead place the decision in the hands of councils.
“This is something that obviously will help our youngest citizens, those that are able to least help themselves,” Mr Langbroek said.
“I would be encouraging all councils to make a decision as evidenced by today’s paper that shows its in the best interests of their citizens.
“We’ve given councils the right to choose but it’s pretty obvious that they should be choosing, in my opinion, to make sure take care of their most vulnerable citizens.”
Local Government Minister and Townsville-based MP David Crisafulli, whose constituents are among those with the best oral health, according to the survey, said he too backed the use of fluoride but would not intervene in the right of councils to decide.
“I come from a city that’s had fluoride in the water for the better part of five decades and today it shows that those results work,” the Mundingburra MP said.
“But local decisions are always best made by local people on the ground and our message to councils is, they have asked to be empowered, we are empowering them, they have to make the right choices, they have to weigh up the community needs versus the costs, versus the benefits.”