Water fluoridation is needed in the Southland District, the Southern District Health Board says.
Oral health specialist Dr Tim McKay spoke to Southland District Council members at the draft Annual Plan hearing yesterday.
McKay said the possibility of fluoridating Southland’s water needed to be revisited because it had been seven years since a local-body referendum revealed Southlanders did not want it.
Of the district’s 12 water supplies, the health board wanted five – Riverton, Edendale/Wyndham, Winton, Lumsden, and Te Anau – to be fluoridated because they each serviced more than 1000 people.
McKay said 40 per cent of European 5-year-olds and 53 per cent of Maori 5-year-olds had tooth decay in areas of Southland without water fluoridation, compared with 27 per cent and 46 per cent in areas with fluoridated water.
“I want to reassure you that water fluoridation continues to be a safe and effective way to prevent [tooth decay],” he said.
“It’s the most proven method of improving oral health.”
McKay said the board would like to meet councillors to explain the benefits in detail and look at how the council might implement fluoridation.
Councillor John Douglas said water fluoridation was an emotive topic, and wanted to know if people who were against it had any scientific proof of health effects.
McKay said the only health concern recognised by the health board was dental fluorosis, or the white flecking of teeth. It usually occurred in parts of the world which naturally had high levels of fluoride in the water.
Of the 49 submissions received on the draft Annual Plan, 19 submitters chose to speak to the council. Some of most common topics were the Around the Mountains cycle trail, requests for grants, and smoke-free policy.
The hearing continues tomorrow.