Fluoridating water in Marlborough is not “mass medication”, says the region’s health boss.
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board chief executive Chris Fleming said the Marlborough District Council should make a commitment to work with the board to fluoridate the region’s water supplies.
He was speaking at a council hearing on the region’s long term plan on Wednesday.
Tooth decay was rising rapidly in Marlborough, Fleming said.
It was hitting the most deprived and widening the gap between social economic groups, he said.
The number of children in the board with tooth decay at the age of five increased from 33 per cent in 2011 to 45 per cent in 2013.
Of those, Maori children had the most significant increase from 50 per cent to 69 per cent.
“If we had 45 cent of children that had lost a limb there would be public outcry,” Fleming said. “People think it is just rotting teeth in someone’s mouth so it’s OK. Well it isn’t.”
The only fluoridated area in the top of the south was Base Woodbourne in Blenheim.
Fleming said it was an emotive issue but he took his facts from scientific research done by the World Health Organisation, the Royal Society of New Zealand and the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor who agreed fluoridation created no health risks and fluoridated water should be rolled out to communities.
Fluoridation was the most safe and effective preventative measure against tooth decay, Fleming said.
“Fluoridation is not mass medication.”
The public health benefits outweighed all the detractors, Fleming said.
“It’s not too late for old people. The pay back is a 40 per cent reduction in tooth decay.”
“It’s time to press the go button on the issue.”
The Ministry of Health funded 50 per cent of a fluoridation scheme. The operational cost of fluoridation was negligible, Fleming said.
Fluoridated water could potential save the board $1 million a year, which was spent on putting children under general anesthetic to have their teeth extracted.
Blenheim GP and Marlborough Primary Health Organisation board member Jim Vause said a Dental Association study showed for every six people drinking fluoridated water, one person would be free of tooth decay.
“Those are pretty impressive stats medically wise.”
In his opinion, if you drank fluoridated water as well as fizzy drinks your teeth would remain protected but he wanted more research.
Mayor Alistair Sowman said local government wanted to shy away from fluoridating water because it could land councils in court.
“If you want to stir people up, talk about water fluoridation. It is a debate that has divided us around the table.”
He wanted central government to make a definitive statement on the issue.
See photo with caption: A two-year-old from the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board area that had been drinking coke from a baby bottle needed six teeth pulled.