Waikato dentists have fired the first salvo in the lead-up to Hamilton City Council’s decision whether to continue putting fluoride in the water supply.
Hillcrest dentist Steven Pawley today said the Waikato Bay of Plenty branch of the New Zealand Dental Association would urge the council to continue fluoridation.
“If fluoride were removed, dentists are concerned that in addition to increased costs to families there would also be an increase in pain and suffering across all age groups but particularly in children and the elderly who are at most risk of dental decay,” he said.
A city councillor who abstained from voting on fluoridation – because of concerns there could be a conflict of interest at a Waikato District Health Board meeting last year – said she had yet to make up her mind on the issue.
Pippa Mahood said she welcomed the dentists’ feedback.
“The more people can be informed by people like that, the happier I am.”
The council will make its decision in March after a city-wide survey is conducted rather than a poll.
Mr Pawley said fluoridation was the cheapest, safest and most effective public health measure known.
It reduced decay in adults by 15 to 35 per cent and in children by up to 60 per cent.
A recent Public Health Commission report found fluoridation prevented up to 12 decayed, filled or extracted teeth in every person.
It costs more than $100 to have a single tooth filled and 20c a person each year to fluoridate water, he said.
If removed, there was no doubt waiting lists for publicly funded dentistry would lengthen.
“We could expect to see increasing numbers of pre-schoolers and primary school children suffering pain, chronic abscesses, weight loss, broken sleep and impaired ability to learn while they wait their turn for dental treatment.”
There was no guarantee the Government would pick up the bill to treat children if councillors voted against fluoride.
Hamilton began fluoridation in 1966 with powdered sodium fluoride. It changed to liquid hydrofluosilicic acid (HFA), sourced from Morrinsville, in 1985.
Fluoride opponents argued HFA was toxic industrial waste from a fertiliser factory and came contaminated with lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.
They also said less than one per cent of the water was actually consumed.
Five years ago the Waikato Times reported children in Matamata-Piako had the worst teeth in the Waikato.
The council took fluoride out of its supply in 1996 after a district referendum rejected it.