With the waiting list for dental surgery in Montreal’s pediatric hospitals being nearly a year long, dentists are saying it’s time for Montreal to add fluoride to drinking water.

Dr. Jaime Greenspoon said she has seen a steady increase in children with such severe dental problems that they require general anesthestic to be treated.

“Definitely over the past few years there is an increase in the number of cavities especially in very young children,” said Dr. Greenspoon.

In 2015 there were 5,700 children in hospitals and specialized clinics in Quebec who required general anesthetic to repair one or several teeth — work far more involved that filling a simple cavity.

“We’re diagnosing the cavities, we’re putting them on a waiting list, but we’re only going to treat their cavities next year,” said Dr. Greenspoon.

She believes there are two parts to the problem.

One is that more foods contain sugar than ever before. A study published earlier this month indicated that two-thirds of packaged foods in Canada, including baby food, have added sugar.

Another factor is the reluctance of parents to do what is necessary for their children.

“I have so many parents that come to see me and they say ‘whenever I try to brush my kid’s teeth they just cry, so I just don’t,'” said Dr. Greenspoon.

The lack of fluoride in Montreal’s drinking water puts people on the island at a distinct disadvantage.

Quebec’s Order of Dentists has been pushing for the “simple solution” for many years, urging Montreal to follow the lead of the Dorval and Pointe Claire water treatment plants which supply much of the West Island — an area that, unsurprisingly, has fewer people getting cavities.

Dr. Joelle Lasry said it’s not a surprise.

“It is in the water so parents don’t have to take an active role and give fluoride supplements and so on. In that sense it’s built into the tooth,” said Dr. Lasry.

The city of Montreal said it has no interest in adding fluoride when only one percent of treated water is used for drinking.

To compensate, Dr. Lasry urges parents to monitor tooth brushing until they have teenagers.

“I want parents to be involved in the kids’ brushing until they’re 10 or 11. I encourage them to really be active,” she said.

Dentists are also encouraging parents to bring in their children while their teeth are forming.

“If we can start at one year old and give the parents pointers, the primary teeth will not be affected,” said Dr. Lasry.