Okotoks town council was all smiles to find out that the town’s preschool oral health clinics are being well attended by residents.
A report presented to council on Sept. 8 stated attendance at fluoride treatment clinics is slowly rising with an average of eight children each month, a small increase from six in 2013.
The clinics began in January 2013, after council voted to remove fluoride from the Town’s water supply, opting to instead only provide fluoride to children whose teeth were still developing and most at risk for decay.
“I’m just thrilled that people are using it and that there’s been uptake on the clinics,” said Coun. Matt Rockley. “I think that’s a great thing, and then it’s the people who are seeking out that service that get it, very different from when you put fluoride in the water because then everybody gets it whether they want it or not.”
Town council will receive a report on the dental clinics in August of 2015, which will look at the overall effectiveness of the fluoride clinics on Okotoks’ children.
While some residents appear to be adapting to life without fluoride, the jury is still out on the issue.
However, Dr. Richard Musto who is helping prepare the report, said he ultimately recommends adding fluoride back into the Town’s water supply for additional oral health benefits.
Town councillors weren’t keen on reopening the fluoride debate.
Rockley said the decision to remove fluoride was not taken lightly in 2012, as many residents packed council chambers to hear Dr. Musto present his case for fluoridation against Dr. James Beck, author of The Case Against Fluoride, who argued against fluoride in water supplies.
Rockley said it’s frustrating to keep having the same arguments with no proper guidance.
“It’s one of those issues that for me it’s just bizarre that the decision making authority on whether or not to have fluoride in water is a municipal council decision because it’s really a health issue,” he said. “To me it’s Alberta Health Services decision, it’s not a decision for municipal councillors to make. We have dentists and medical doctors on one side of the issue telling us one thing, and then we have dentists and medical doctors on the other side of the issue.”
Although Alberta Health Services does encourage municipalities to fluoridate, there is no formal legislation from the Province requiring them to do so. Many municipalities, including Calgary, have removed fluoride from their systems over fears fluoride can actually be damaging to bone density or even IQ levels.
“If the science is proven and it’s case closed that the benefits outweigh the harm, then it would be up to the province to legislate whether or not that’s done and we can choose to comply or not,” Rockley said. “But it’s really not fair to have that decision on municipal councils because we’re not the experts on the subject matter.”
Health Canada does endorse fluoridation of water, but also warns of the risks of long-term exposure for Canadians, including “pain and stiff joints, in more severe cases, the symptoms may include difficulty in moving, deformed bones and a greater risk of bone fractures.”
The Canadians Opposed to Fluoridation Association argues that in addition to possible negative health impacts, “Fluoridation is a violation of the individual’s right to informed consent to medication.”
While the recommendation was made to re-introduce fluoride into Okotoks’ water supply, Mayor Bill Robertson said for now they will wait until further reports next year and continue investing $8,000, which was going towards water fluoridation, into the preschool oral health clinics.
“I support keeping the fluoride alternate program, allowing those treatments with the money we are saving,” he said. “And I support that on an ongoing basis, not just for a couple of years. As long as we don’t have community wide fluoride in the water, we certainly need to keep that program going.”