A complaint against an advertisement supporting water fluoridation has been upheld, with the Advertising Standards Authority ruling the ad made an unsubstantiated claim.

Harley Dentistry claimed in a newspaper advertorial that water fluoridation reduces decay by 20 per cent. As “an absolute claim of fact”, that was not substantiated, the authority’s Complaints Board has ruled.

The Tauranga dental surgery wrote the piece in response to Hamilton City Council’s decision in early June to remove fluoride from the water supply (>>nzdoctor.co.nz, ‘News’, 5 June).

Harley Dentistry founder Graeme Lynam wrote: “As dentists, we shake our heads in horror.  Water fluoridation reduces decay by 20 per cent in our most vulnerable people, our children and those on lower incomes.”

The board found that, while the ad was an opinion piece, the claim was presented as fact rather than opinion.

No evidence produced

The complainant, K Evans, says he wrote to Harley Dentistry asking to see the evidence that backed the claim but none was produced.

Dr Lynam says the piece was a comment on his view of a public health measure – a view shared by health professionals for at least 40 years.

“I am not selling anything and there is no financial gain for my view,” Dr Lynam says in his response to the decision.

Rather, he could experience a long-term reduction in income as a result of fluoridation, he says.

Dr Lynam directed Mr Evans to search PubMed and the Cochrane Review to access the evidence because that would be the easiest and most environmentally friendly approach.

“Due to the bulk of the material, it would be unreasonable and environmentally insensitive to print the wealth of documentation provided by these sites in support of my public health view.”

Ad pulled by paper

Bay of Plenty Times, which ran the opinion piece, says it was clearly labelled as an advertorial “to ensure our readers were aware the content was the view of Harley Dentistry”.

The Times cancelled the ad once the complaint was lodge with the authority.