Some Moncton dentists are speaking out against a campaign to remove fluoride from drinking water in the southeastern New Brunswick city.
A group of residents called Fluoride Free Moncton says there’s a risk of getting too much fluoride, and people should have a choice to have it in their local water supply.
But local dentists say not fluoridating the water would put a segment of the population at risk.
Dr. Suzanne Drapeau-McNally, who is a member of a group that donates dental work to under-privileged families, said many of the patients don’t own a toothbrush, so having fluoride in the water and providing it at school is critical.
Drapeau-McNally said making it optional could create a stigma for children from low-income families.
“When you give a choice, then you seperate you say, ‘You’re poor, you get the fluoride. You, you’re rich, you have everything, you don’t have to have the fluoride.’ I don’t care for that,” Drapeau-McNally said.
Fluoride in drinking water is often credited with reducing cavities. However, it has also been linked to a reported increase in spots on some children’s teeth.
The U.S. government announced in January that it plans to lower the recommended levels of the mineral.
A panel of experts, convened by Health Canada in 2008, recommended lowering fluoride levels in drinking water to 0.7 mg/L from the maximum acceptable concentration of 1.5 mg/L.
It is estimated that 13.5 million Canadians, or about 43 per cent of the population, live in communities with fluoridated tap water.
British Columbia and Quebec have almost no fluoridation, according to Health Canada.
Calgary voted to remove fluoride from its water supply earlier in February.
Benefits outweigh risks: dentist
Dr. Paricher Irani, another Moncton dentist, said the group lobbying against fluoride in drinking water has some valid concerns.
She said some people are at risk, when exposed to high concentrations of fluoride. For example, too much fluoride can diminish the immune system.
But Irani said the benefits of a providing fluoride to an entire community are far greater than those risks.
“What we need to realize is those percentages of fluoride, we do have in our water take into account that Canadians are ingesting fluoride by other means as well,” Irani said.
Irani said removing fluoride would only increase the risk of tooth decay in certain segments of the population.