South Otago dentists have reacted with delight to the news drinking water fluoridation will resume next year in four of the area’s towns.

Fluoridation in Balclutha, Milton, Kaitangata and Tapanui lapsed in October last year, after Clutha District Council contractor Citycare Water identified health and safety concerns with their fluoride dosing systems.

Last Thursday, the council voted 10-4 to reinstate fluoridation equipment at the four plants, at a total cost of $352,000.

Fluoridation is expected to resume from June next year.

Dr Lye Funn Ng, of Graham York Dental in Balclutha, said she and sister and fellow dentist, Dr Lye Kuan Alexander, of John St Dental, Balclutha, had submitted a joint letter of appeal to the council meeting.

In the letter, both surgeries said they had observed an increase in the rate of patients presenting with dental decay since the halt to fluoridation.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, Dr Ng said the observation aligned with previous professional experience in Waitaki, where water was unfluoridated.

“We noticed when we came down to Clutha the massive difference in general dental health and lower rates of decay, and I believe that can be directly attributed to drinking water fluoridation.

“We appreciate the council taking a brave stand on a contentious issue for the benefit of local children and all residents.

“To put it simply, children will now get fewer holes in their teeth.”

During last week’s meeting, Southern DHB medical health officer Dr Susan Jack addressed councillors in person.

She said population-based fluoridation was not only beneficial to public health, but could also save public funds.

Studies showed savings from averted dental costs more than offset fluoridation costs for populations of 500 or more.

Following the meeting, Dr Jack said she was “thrilled” by Clutha’s decision.

“We are thrilled [the council has] decided to reinstate fluoridation to its water supplies. This will ensure Clutha’s communities are protected against dental caries [decay] and will have improved oral health.”

Anti-fluoridation group Fluoride Free New Zealand (FFNZ) also submitted to the council before its meeting, and spokeswoman Mary Byrne yesterday described its decision as “disgraceful”, citing a recently revised September 2019 study from the US Government’s National Toxicology Program.

“FFNZ finds it disgraceful that the council would vote to reinstate fluoridation when fluoride is now recognised by the top US governmental science [sic] as being neurotoxic.

“We wonder if the councillors would be so cavalier with Clutha district children’s health if the law allowed for them to be held personally liable.

“We hope the local community will at least demand their views be heard.”

*Original article titled Dentists hail outcome of fluoride vote, online at