Orillia’s anti-fluoridation movement has garnered the support of a veteran of the dental profession.

Tammy Gouweloos, a registered dental hygienist for the past 30 years, says the higher rate of decayed teeth in Orillia’s children “has nothing to do with whether or not we have fluoride in our water.”

Gouweloos is urging council not to fluoridate the city’s drinking water, as recommended by the public health unit.

“Dental decay is a disease that is completely preventable without public water fluoridation,” Gouweloos told a crowd of about 100 who turned out for the first of two public meetings on the controversial proposal.

High sugar consumption and acidic foods and drinks are driving tooth decay, she said.

“Nutritional education is the key to prevention,” Gouweloos, a past-president of the Ontario Dental Hygienists Association added.
Others arrived at the three-hour meeting with placards warning of the dangers they say are associated with water fluoridation.

“Fluoride causes brain damage,” read one.

Health unit officials, however, reiterated the claim that fluoridation is a safe and effective measure to combat tooth decay.

Children in St. Thomas, a similar-sized community with fluoride, have an average of 1. 4 cavities versus the 2.5 cavities reported in Orillia children, they said.

Medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner described water fluoridation as “a collective solution” to tooth decay, and likened it to the addition of vitamin D to milk.

Health Canada’s Dr. Peter Cooney agreed, adding that a bevy of studies by respected authorities, including the World Health Organization, support the cause.

“If you look at these groups and associations and the science that went into these (studies) … I would suggest that there is no doubt at all,” he said.

Pediatric dentist Dr. Keith Morley accompanied his presentation with graphic images showing the mouth of a child suffering severe dental disease.

“One of the most effective ways to get fluoride, topically, to children is through fluoridated water,” he said.

Peter Van Caulart, of Canadians Opposed to Fluoridation, said studies presented by the pro-fluoridation camp could not be taken at face value.

“If you select the right people to do the systematic reviews, the results are predictable,” he added.

Several speakers voiced concern over the addition of medication to a public water supply without residents’ consent.

“It is unethical to mass medicate Orillia’s population,” said Andrea Lee-Burnet, a member of the Raging Grannies.

The Grannies took to the microphone with a song that suggested regular tooth brushing and a healthy diet were the answer, not fluoridation.

Fluoridated water “may lower IQ, cause cancer – brain damage, too, brittle bones and fractured hips,” the Grannies sang.

A case can be made for topical fluoride use, “but not for the ingested variety,” Gouweloos said.

“Orillia should be leaving the application of fluoride in the hands of the dental professionals,” she added.

Caption under photo: The Raging Grannies gave a presentation during the first of two public forums on a proposal to fluoridate Orillia’s drinking water. The Grannies, armed with a skull-and-cross bones flag, oppose water fluoridation.