Fluoride Action Network

CDHB to vote on pro-fluoridation stance despite having no power to implement it

Source: Stuff.co.nz | By Cate Broughton
Posted on March 10th, 2021
Location: New Zealand
Note from Fluoride Action Network:
The photo below of the child with rotten teeth is a good example of baby bottle tooth decay, due to sucking on a bottle that contains sugar water, milk, soda, etc. Note that it is only the upper teeth that are affected. This decay has nothing to do with whether a community has fluoridated water.

Canterbury’s health board will vote on whether to update its pro-fluoridation stance for the region’s drinking water, despite a proposed law giving it control over the decision stalling.

The Canterbury District Health Board’s (CDHB) community, public health and disability advisory committee voted unanimously in support of a pro-fluoridation statement on Thursday.

In a study published last year, public dental health researchers said the poor oral health of Canterbury children was an “ongoing paediatric health crisis”.

Their data showed nearly 20 per cent of Canterbury’s 5-year-olds had tooth decay.

Canterbury’s public health dentist and author of the pro-fluoridation statement, Martin Lee, said poor oral health continued into adulthood. Three quarters of adults had at least one tooth removed due to decay, an abscess, infection or gum disease by the time they were 65.

Some young children have to get rotten teeth extracted under general anaesthetic.
Some young children have to get rotten teeth extracted under general anaesthetic.

A bill to shift responsibility for fluoridation from local councils to DHBs, first introduced by the National Government in 2016, was poised for a second reading in parliament.

Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said the bill was a priority, but she could not provide a specific timeframe.

“Further work is being done on the bill and will be progressed this year.”

The updated CDHB position advocates for fluoridation as an effective and safe measure to reduce high rates of tooth decay.

The statement recognises:

  • Tooth decay is caused by a range of factors and the “burden of decay in Canterbury is substantial”.
  • Some sectors of society suffer poor oral health at higher rates than others.
  • Oral health of M?ori in Canterbury is worse than non-M?ori.
  • Extensive scientific evidence shows fluoridation is safe, effective and socially equitable.

About 40,000 children and 272,000 adults had one or more of their teeth removed in 2017 alone due to decay, an abscess or infection, according to Ministry of Health data.

Half of M?ori children and 63 per cent of Pacific children had rotten teeth compared with 30 per cent of “other” ethnic groups, a 2017-18 ministry report said.

Canterbury community dental service clinical director Martin Lee says poor oral health is an issue for many Kiwis.
joseph johnson/Stuff
Canterbury community dental service clinical director Martin Lee says poor oral health is an issue for many Kiwis.

Reviews of fluoridation by the Cochrane Collaboration (2015), the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Office of the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor? together included more than 150 studies into water fluoridation.

Date showed areas with fluoridated water supplies had 27 to 35 per cent fewer cases of decayed, missing and filled teeth.

Just over half of the New Zealand population used fluoridated water, with Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington the largest areas.

A recent comparison of tooth decay for M?ori and non-M?ori 5-year-olds in Canterbury and Southland/Otago found considerably higher rates of decay for M?ori children in non-fluoridated areas.

The rates of decay for all children were higher in areas without fluoridation.

A cost-benefit analysis found fluoridation would save the region’s health service between $60 million to $303m over 20 years.

The concentration of fluoride in water supplies would need to increase from existing levels of 0.1-0.2 mg/L to 0.7-1.0 mg/L, the analysis said.

At this higher level, fluoride protected against tooth decay by “shifting the de/remineralisation balance” in the mouth.

The full CDHB would vote on the statement and briefing at a meeting on March 18.

* Election 2020: Fluoridation of water supported by both Labour and National, but progress not guaranteed