CALGARY – It’s an issue that is so divisive that it returns to the forefront again and again.
The ‘F’ word, or fluoride, has divided Calgarians over whether the city should be adding it to the public water supply.
This Wednesday, council will hold a public hearing to once again consider the arguments on either side.
Fluoride has been added to Calgary water since 1991.
The chemical helps developing teeth harden to prevent tooth decay – but does a low concentration in our water really make a difference?
There’s compelling evidence on both sides.
“The degree of benefit now that we’re going to achieve is less than it was decades ago,” says Dr. Richard Musto with Alberta Health Services.
Dr. Musto agrees that better diets, dental care and hygiene have lessened the need for fluoride in city water, however, says there is strong evidence to support that fluoridated water prevents tooth decay.
“Dental decay is still an issue that affects many parts of the community and this is the best and simplest way to get that benefit to everybody.”
The benefit, according to dentist Dr. Bryce Adamson, is how often he is filling cavities.
“In areas without fluoridation dentists have to be more aggressive with how they treat cavities.”
In B.C.’s Okanagan, fluoride was taken out of the water supply in the mid-90s and although no official research has been done, dentists there have noticed a change.
“My own experience in chatting with my colleagues, everyone is seeing an increase especially in younger kids. It’s particularly in the lower socio-economic groups,” says Dr. Adamson.
Still, critics like Dr. James Beck say the research shows otherwise. In his book “The Case Against Fluoride”, he argues that study after study shows the benefit of adding fluoride to the water supply is almost nil.
“In the study of 39,000 children, in 80 some odd different communities, the difference in the fluoridated area there was on average 0.6 of a surface. That’s a benefit that’s almost immeasurable.”
A benefit that he says is outweighed by risk because fluoride only helps teeth when applied topically.
Tomorrow on the News Hour, Heather Yourex takes a look at whether it is dangerous to drink the concentration of fluoride in Calgary’s water as well as the risk of fluorosis.
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