One of the last remaining towns in New South Wales without fluoridation has decided to add it to its drinking water.
The Oberon Council on the state’s central tablelands has voted five-to-three to add fluoride to the town’s supply after several months of heated debate and campaigning.
It is one of eight local governments in NSW, out of more than 100 local councils in the state, that has been asked to consider fluoridation by Health Minister Brad Hazzard.
Oberon resident, Jenn Capel, said she was thrilled with the decision.
“I think it’s an excellent result,” Ms Capel said.
“It’s the people in the community who don’t have that [oral] care, who don’t have the dedication to teeth, they’re the ones who are going to suffer and the long-term effects are overwhelming.”
The Oberon Council last discussed fluoridation in 2014 and resolved not to proceed.
“It’s taken a long time,” Oberon resident Tina Slattery said.
“The last time it went up the community didn’t really appreciate what was going on, and so it could have been taken over by a very persuasive, small group.”
The debate at Tuesday’s council meeting sparked anger among those who opposed fluoridation, with several speakers claiming it would be a form of “mass medication” and could jeopardise people’s health.
“I’m mortified, I think they’ve gone against the wishes of Oberon,” mother-of-five Tracey Watson said.
“My concern is that the pro people didn’t really show any documented evidence, whereas the people against always did.”
Sarah Raphael from the Australian Dental Association New South Wales made a presentation at the council meeting and quoted the 2007 Child Dental Survey.
“It clearly showed more than double the amount of dental decay in the children of Oberon compared with Orange and Dubbo which have water fluoridation and have done for quite some time,” Dr Raphael said.
“The overwhelming evidence backs that water fluoridation is the most safe and equitable way to protect against dental decay in the community.”
Anti-fluoride campaigner Veronika Cvitanovic has lived in Oberon for eight years.
She said she surveyed 684 people and 70 per cent were against fluoridation.
“To me it’s clear that the council is not representing the community’s wishes,” Ms Cvitanovic said.
Other councils considering fluoridation
In 2017, Mr Hazzard wrote to the eight councils asking them to consider fluoridation.
The Bega Valley and Gunnedah Shire have already agreed to fluoridate all of their water.
The Liverpool Plains Shire has told the ABC it is considering adding fluoride to two of its drinking water supplies, and the Wentworth Shire said it would consider the matter.
The Brewarrina Shire Council has ruled out pursuing fluoridation.
The ABC has contacted the Byron and Carrathool Shire Councils and is awaiting information.
For Veronika Cvitanovic and Tracey Watson, they say their fight is not over in Oberon.
“There are always options and the legal one is certainly one we will be considering,” Ms Cvitanovic said.
“I’m not going to sit back,” Ms Watson said.
“Are they going to pay for a water tank for me?”