Newly published guidelines from the World Health Organization recommend a reduction of sugar intake to below 10 percent of daily energy intake, in order to reduce tooth decay, and other diseases, particularly in children.
The report confirms that high sugar is related to increased decay in both fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas, and that while water fluoridation appears to delay tooth decay, it does not completely prevent it.
In their publication, Guideline: Sugars intake for adults and children. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2015
“Although exposure to fluoride reduces dental caries at a given age, and delays the onset of the cavitation process, it does not completely prevent dental caries, and dental caries still progresses in populations exposed to fluoride”
FIND has made consistent calls for the Health Department to fight tooth decay by focussing on reducing sugars in the diet and improving toothbrushing compliance in children. Such an approach has proved very effective overseas, but health authorities in New Zealand prefer to promote mass community fluoridation instead.
Robust reviews of the science suggest that in modern societies, water fluoridation is of negligible benefit, and there is no plausible evidence that it benefits adults, nor that it helps address social inequalities in oral health. On the other hand, recent research raises strong concern over damage to health, particularly in poorer communities.
The WHO report should be of interest to the Associate Minister of Health, Peter Dunne, who recently denied that sugar is the underlying cause of tooth decay, and who seems to believe water fluoridation is a magic bullet which will protect at risk people from tooth decay regardless how much sugar they consume in the way of fizzy drinks and fast food.