Dr Rob Beaglehole, water fluoridation spokesperson, New Zealand Dental Association:
The New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) is disappointed at the events that have led to today’s Inquiry on Wellington Water’s fluoridation mistakes.
Although the inquiry should improve delivery and governance issues around water fluoridation for residents in Wellington it should be remembered that poor communication, reporting systems failure, and a lack of understanding of the importance of fluoridated water to oral health has let down the people of Wellington and Hutt Valley, their tamariki and the oral healthcare professionals who care for them.
Information was drip fed initially, with residents first being told it was one month without fluoride, then it was 10 months. Some Wellingtonians could be facing over 18 months without fluoride in their water.
This is a disaster from a dental perspective with people most likely to be impacted living in deprivation, people who don’t or are unable to brush their teeth daily with a fluoride toothpaste, and people who excessively consume sugary drinks. They may be experiencing higher levels of new dental decay and that experience may also be more severe.
The bigger picture is the Government should look to see if other regions are affected and boosting financial support for both areas that have water fluoridation and the new regions and towns that will introduce this because of recent Government changes.
We need to do next is ensure this poor process and lack of communication never happens again in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Unfortunately, a greater number of people including children and adolescents in Wellington may require further support to access dental care required as a result.