Calls for the introduction of fluoridation in Montreal’s water system have been revived in the wake of a study that shows kindergarten children in Dorval have twice as many cavities as they did when fluoride was added to that city’s drinking water.
Until recently, Dorval children generally had healthier teeth than their Montreal peers, said Michael Levy, dental consultant to the Quebec National Institute of Public Health.
“Children in Dorval now have the same number of cavities as children in similar socio-economic areas of Montreal,” he said, citing recent figures from the CLSC Dorval-Lachine.
After about 50 years of fluoridation, Dorval stopped adding fluoride to its water supply in 2003 because its equipment needed a $400,000 upgrade and the borough was waiting for the go-ahead from the Quebec government, which funds fluoridation. Montreal has never fluoridated its water.
Of about 120 kindergarten children monitored in Dorval in 2003, eight per cent showed signs of severe tooth decay.
By 2004, severe tooth decay among that group had risen to 10 per cent; by 2005, it reached 16 per cent, or twice as high as in 2003.
Levy said when he saw the latest figures, he first checked Dorval’s socio-economic statistics for any big changes that could account for the dramatic rise. Statistically, people from low-income families are more likely to have cavities.
“Dorval has a relatively stable population,” he said. “No population factor can explain the rise in cavities in Dorval. The only explanation is halting the fluoride.”
Levy noted that the World Health Organization advocates the use of fluoride in drinking water as the most effective preventive measure for cavities.
He pointed out that Montreal is the last major North American city to hold out against water fluoridation.
“Montrealers have among the worst teeth in North America.”
Stephane Schwartz is the director of the dental clinic at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. She also is a spokesperson for the Montreal Coalition for Healthy Teeth, a 1,000-member group pushing for fluoridation of the city’s water supply.
“I’m frustrated and angry that we are still having to fight for this,” she said.
Schwartz says fluoride is especially important to young children whose teeth are developing.
“I see the result of this problem at my clinic every day: children yelling, mothers crying, month after month.”
The coalition’s website says water fluoridation costs less than one dollar per person per year, and poses no risk to the environment.
Levy said there are “no known dangers” from water fluoridation, although studies are continuing.
Bernard Larin, spokesperson for the Montreal city council executive committee, said the city has commissioned a report on water fluoridation and will make no decision until the study is complete, probably this fall.
“Specialists on both sides are weighing in on the issue before we make any decision,” he said.
Dorval Mayor Edgar Rouleau said he was in favour of reinstating fluoride in the city’s drinking water and has been waiting for funds from the Quebec government to update the equipment.
“They had confirmed to us that money was available more than a year ago but wanted (to wait for) Montreal to fluoridate their water, as well” so they could pay for both areas at the same time, Rouleau said.
A meeting has been scheduled with officials from Dorval and Montreal, as well as Quebec Health Department representatives. Rouleau said it is to take place in late August or early September.
You can get fluoride in toothpaste, mouthwash and tablets, and applying fluoride directly to the teeth is the most beneficial method.
Too much fluoride will cause mottled teeth.
It might also increase the risk of a fatal bone cancer in young boys and hip fractures in the elderly.
Even though water fluoridation is banned in Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Norway and France, cavity rates have come down there.
From a civil liberties standpoint, it is forced mass medication.
It reduces tooth decay and the harmful effects claimed by fluoridation’s opponents have not been proven satisfactorily.
Fluoride prevents cavities in two ways: First, it builds strong teeth from the bone out and then it protects the surface of the tooth from bacteria, which can eat away at the tooth’s enamel.
Fluoridation gives protection to children who are vulnerable to tooth decay for cultural or socio-economic reasons. The Canadian Dental Association says the No. 1 risk factor for dental decay is poverty.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control has declared fluoridation “one of the top 10 public health advances of the past century.”