A dental expert in Cairns is “desperately disappointed” the local water supply in far north Queensland will not be fluoridated from today.

The Cairns Regional Council decided to adopt the Local Government Association of Queensland’s position on fluoride earlier this year, voting to remove it from the supply.

An associate professor of preventative dentistry at James Cook University, Robyn Boase, says it will result in avoidable toothache and decay for many residents.

“Victoria has shown that for every dollar you spend on fluoridation you save about $19 in dental treatment and avoided lost time at school or work, so yes, basically it will cost the community a great deal more,” she said.

“The council will save money but the community will pay.

“I think there is a point to be made that we do accept some decisions about our health without being consulted.

“We do accept that the water is chlorinated and we do accept that we do have to wear seatbelts for our own good.

“There are some things that health officials should be able to make decisions about – that’s what governments do.”

Associate Professor Boase says parents will need to take extra precautions to help their children avoid tooth decay.

“Cut down on sugared drinks and use a fluoride toothpaste,” she said.

“I would advise parents to get their children to spit out the excess, not rinse their mouth.

“This leaves a little bit of fluoride toothpaste on their teeth and it’s like giving their teeth a mini-fluoride treatment every time they brush their teeth, so there are things they can do.”


However, the Cairns council says it could easily restore fluoride to the local water supply if councillors decided to reverse the decision.

Councillor Richie Bates voted against the move and says he wants to facilitate a community debate about fluoride ahead of a possible rescission motion.

The acting general manager of water and waste, Alex Ung, says he is still investigating options to on-sell fluoride infrastructure.

“Certainly at this stage we haven’t disassembled the infrastructure to the point where it couldn’t be reinstalled,” Mr Ung said.

“If council did make that decision to reintroduce that supply, at this stage we still have the capacity to put it back on relatively quickly.”

He says the council will use the removal of fluoride to test how the fast the water turns over across the network.

“Even though the fluoride system will be turned off, there will be levels of fluoride working its way through the system,” he said.

“We’re currently monitoring that just for water quality tracing exercises.

“We think the fluoride may still be in the water supply for up to a further week or two.”