Hamilton councillors want to know the cost of expanding dental care to rid the city’s water system of fluoride.

For nearly three hours yesterday, the board of health debated the merits of fluoridated water — a public health measure many cities are reconsidering.

Dr. Peter Wiebe, who monitors the city’s dental programs, cautioned against removing the chemical from water unless council is prepared to invest in a costly dental program.

There is “no good scientific evidence” that fluoridated water is dangerous, he said. Still, he noted it is unclear how much people benefit from the additive because most already receive it from dental treatments and toothpaste.

Topical application of fluoride is considered more effective, but the danger is for those people who don’t have the resources to seek dental treatment, said Wiebe. There are Hamilton families that share a toothbrush, he said.

“They cannot afford toothpaste.”

Cutting fluoride from water would save a $2-million capital upgrade and almost $600,000 a year.

Staff argue the savings would stay in the water budget, forcing the city to find new funds for an expanded dental program.

Waterdown’s Cindy Mayor wants water fluoride cut.

She linked her thyroid condition to a chemical three years ago and now only drinks distilled water.

Wiebe countered that the leading medical and dental associations still support the use of fluoride in water.

Councillor Bob Bratina said it’s clear that if a topical treatment is more effective, the city should invest in a dental program for people who can’t afford it, instead of forcing everyone to drink the chemical.

“Why are we mass medicating?”