The topic of water fluoridation travelled upstream from the municipal arena to the provincial stage as Alberta Party Leader Stephen Mandel announced Friday his party’s plans to encourage larger cities to add fluoride to their drinking water.
The pledge, announced at the Glenmore water plant, comes just weeks after Calgary city council voted to revisit the issue of fluoride in its water supply. A previous council had directed the practice of fluoridation be discontinued in 2011.
Fluoridation has a long, and contentious, history in Calgary. Residents have been asked five times whether they wanted fluoride in the water system, sometimes voting against it and other times voting for it.
Mandel said it’s a “safe and effective” way to prevent tooth decay, especially among people in vulnerable populations.
“We will work with municipalities to help them do this in a way that makes sense for their communities,” said Mandel, adding the provincial government could assist by providing research and education, in addition to helping cities borrow money through Alberta Capital Finance Authority.
The plan is to partner with municipalities with populations greater than 10,000.
When asked if he thought Calgary made a mistake by discontinuing fluoridation in its water system, Mandel said, “I don’t second guess cities,” adding that Calgary has a “great city council” which the party supports.
According to Alberta Health, every dollar spent on community water fluoridation can save as much as $93 per person in dental treatment costs; the department also notes that fluoridation does help prevent tooth decay.
A 2016 University of Calgary study, which compared tooth decay in Grade 2 students in Edmonton and Calgary, found fluoride cessation in Calgary had a negative impact on children’s dental health.
In June, Council will review new evidence on the merits of fluoridation, to be compiled by the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health.
Fluoridation wasn’t the only subject in the Alberta Party’s dental health strategy.
Mandel said if his party is elected, it will expand the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan to cover annual dental checkups for Alberta children aged 12 and under, including two X-rays at age 10.
“This is essential,” said Mandel. “Every child in Alberta deserves basic dental health. By covering annual dental checkups, we’ll make it easier for Alberta families to take their kids to the dentist during those crucial early years.”
The service is already available to low-income-earning families in the province. It would expand under the Alberta Party to all children, no matter the income level.
The program is projected to cost approximately $48 million per year, which Mandel said would be paid for through the Alberta Health Services package, but he didn’t expand. He said the party will offer further details on health care at a later date.
Earlier this week, the Alberta Party revealed an ambitious child care plan, promising a $1-billion child care voucher program. Mandel said all of the announcements made this week, following the writ drop, have focused on what he considers the “most valuable asset” — children.
*Original article online at https://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/fluoride-debate-travels-upstream-to-provincial-stage