What is the ‘tooth’ when it comes to the issue of fluoride in tap water?
According to Five Hills Health Region medical health officer Dr. Mark Vooght, the truth is fluoridated tap water has been very beneficial to the dental health, and therefore general health, for all those in communities that supplement potable water with fluoride.
“I feel — and my colleagues feel — it’s a health equity issue,” he said. “It benefits both children and adults, the poor, the marginalized and the disadvantaged. They just have to find the tap.”
However, Moose Jaw resident Shaun Francis Drake said he has researched the matter somewhat and would like the city to consider investigating the possible health problems he believes could be associated with fluoridated water.
“It could cause cancer and other medical related stuff,” Drake said, adding he believes fluoride could actually result in accelerated rates of tooth decay.
Vooght, however, cites Health Canada when he states: “There’s no link with fluoride levels in the water with health issues such as cancer, genetic mutations, or reduced bone density, or intelligence levels.”
Both Vooght and Drake expressed their thoughts and concerns regarding fluoridation of local drinking water during Monday’s regular council meeting. Drake had requested permission to address council on the matter of fluoride in the drinking water.
In his attached letter to council, Drake states fluoride is a poison that accumulates in one’s bones and costs taxpayers money without offering anything positive in return. He said it actually harms teeth.
Among those Drake cites for his argument is Dr. John Yiamouyiannis.
Vooght raised strong concerns with anyone putting too much stock in the claims of Yiamouyiannis. Vooght said Yiamouyiannis, an American physician who died in 2000, also suggested immunizing children was wrong and caused AIDS.
“I kid you not. I’ve read his literature.”
At the same time, Vooght said supporters of fluoridation include a lengthy list of medical associations, including the Medical Health Officers Association of Saskatchewan, which represents Vooght.
But Drake said the City of Moose Jaw has fluoridated water for decades and it might be worth reconsidering the status quo. Other communities, including Regina, do not add fluoride to drinking water.
Drake said continuing fluoridation is something the people of Moose Jaw could decide. He said council should, at the very least, permit a study.
“We open our minds to other things,” Drake said. “Why can’t we put this on the table?”
Council unanimously voted to receive and file Drake’s letter. Coun. Heather Eby (acting mayor at Monday’s meeting) said she investigated the cost of Moose Jaw’s fluoridation program and it comes to approximately $15,000 a year, which she considers rather modest.
Coun. Don Mitchell suggested administration could inform Drake of the procedure for bringing about a plebiscite.
A society without fluoride is a society plagued by far more dental decay.
That’s according to local dentist Dr. Paul Beesley, who told the Times-Herald it was far more common before the advent of fluoride in Canada to find decaying six-year molars in young people.
However, with fluoride toothpaste, mouth rinse and communities like Moose Jaw adding fluoride to city water, Beesley said on a whole the health of these adult teeth is far stronger and they last longer.
Beesley believes fluoride in tap water has been a tremendously important and successful means to promoting better health within those communities that add fluoride to the water system.
“It’s probably one of the great preventative measures against dental decay,” he said, adding a dentist can often tell if someone is from a community that adds fluoride to water from a community that doesn’t, just based on the quality of the patient’s teeth.
In Moose Jaw, he said the city has added a certain amount of fluoride to the drinking water for decades. While in large amounts fluoride can be poisonous, Beesley said chlorine could be too. However, both can be added in small quantities with positive effects.
According to an administration report, fluoride is naturally occurring at about 0.15 milligrams per litre. The City of Moose Jaw adds enough fluoride to bring the level up to 0.7 mg/L. Under Health Canada, the maximum accepted fluoride level is 1.5 mg/L.
“It’s pretty minute,” Beesley said about the amount of fluoride in Moose Jaw’s drinking water.
While he appreciates some people might not want a form of mass medication such as fluoride added to water, Beesley said the fact is such policies help prevent tooth decay for everyone — even those who might not easily afford a trip to the dentist.
He said healthy teeth are very important to a person’s overall health and tooth decay can actually impact other parts of the body negatively.
Beesley noted the Canadian Dental Association (www.cda-adc.ca) supports fluoridation of municipal drinking water.