The Nelson branch of the Dental Association is supporting Nelson Marlborough District Health Board’s campaign to fluoridate Nelson’s water supply, but a Wellington dentist is challenging the claims on the benefits of fluoridation.

Dentist Stan Litras, spokesperson for the national Fluoride Information Network for Dentists, descibed comments made by NMDHB principal dental officer Rob Beaglehole to Nelson city councillors as “emotional propaganda”.

“The bottom line is the Dental Council’s main role is to put the public first and the ethics of it is putting out accurate information that is evidence based and I don’t think the DHB is doing that.”

However, Beaglehole, who is also the spokesman for the New Zealand Dental Association on water fluoridation, said Litras was an “outlier” in the the dental profession.

“He’s well known as one of the most ardent anti-fluoridationists in the country, but the important factor to realise is that 96 per cent of all the dentists in the Dental Association support water fluoridation.”

Litras founded the Fluoride Information Network for Dentists after resigning from the Dental Association over differing opinions on fluoridation. He refused to disclose how many dentists belonged to the network, which he said aims to increase transparency in fluoride research.

Beaglehole said the network had around four well-known members and the Dental Association had about 2000 members and was a representative national body.

At a meeting on Thursday night the Nelson branch of the association, which has 70 members, gave its support to NMDHB’s fluoridation campaign, Beaglehole said.

Litras, who is actively involved in fluoridation debates around the country, said the majority of information councillors were presented on fluoride was invalid or biased.

“When a 3-year-old child has 11 teeth that need to be extracted under general anesthetic it has nothing to do with fluoride in the water, it’s a syndrome called early childhood caries which comes from too much sugar.”

“The level of benefit from fluoride in the water is zero to that condition.”

He said he had obtained data showing fluoridation made no difference to the number of fillings Maori and Pacific Island children had in Auckland, and Beaglehole’s statement that fluoride would reduce decay by 40 per cent “didn’t stack up with research conducted all over the world” and wasn’t based on enough information.

“Most of them [studies] are flawed because of bad methodology and in particular, bias from industry which requires certain results.”

Beaglehole rejected Litras’ comments and said the child he extracted 11 teeth from was not suffering from ECC, as the teeth removed were inconsistent with the disease.

He said New Zealand’s chief dental officer Robyn Haisman-Welsh conducted a study analysing all the national data on fluoridation and concluded there was 40 per cent less decay in fluoridated areas than non-fluoridated.

Although only 5000 people were investigated for the study it was a representative sample of the population and it was conducted “very well”, Beaglehole said.

“It just doesn’t make any sense if you think about it rationally, why would I want to poison my kids or my mates’ kids.

“It’s just totally incorrect. They can say something simple like fluoride’s toxic or makes no difference, which is crazy I know it makes a difference, but it takes the pro-fluoride people a long time to go through the data and explain these sorts of things.”

He said when he became the Dental Association’s spokesperson he spent a week looking at all the evidence on fluoridation to make sure he thoroughly understood the topic and knew all the evidence was correct.

“We’re debating emotion and pseudo-science with scientific rigour, it’s very difficult when you’re debating against emotion.

“But it’s just outrageous that these people are causing unnecessary pain and suffering.”

Litras said much of the evidence, including the review conducted by the Government’s chief science advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman, that groups such as the Dental Association used was invalid because objective standards of analyses weren’t followed.

“They need to have a committee that is balanced and the Gluckman review chose pro-fluoridation people which means they limited their literature search solely to evidence that supported their position. Plus they’ve overstated the benefits and understated the health risks quite largely.”

Beaglehole said the claim was “outrageous” and Gluckman’s review went through “every single argument that an anti-fluoridationist has ever come up from and picks up the details” and concluded water fluoridation had no proven negative effects.

“It’s not just the Ministry of Health that say this it’s all the other Dental Associations around the world including the World Dental Federation and the World Health Organisation. The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention have said that water fluoridation is in the top 10 for public health measures.”

Litras said a number of the major organisations were facing corporate influence and by ignoring the risks posed by fluoride local councils were increasing the risk of overdose to at-risk groups.

“It’s not the answer in today’s society. We have so many other sources of fluoride and if you look at the research on toxicity levels there are few groups who are already probably exceeding the recommended levels.”

Beaglehole said he had met with the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor two weeks ago who said the science was settled on the issue.

“At the end of the day we’re guided by the experts. You can pick people out, it’s the same with vaccinations and chem trails, but if you look at the totality of evidence, which is what we have to base our beliefs on, then it’s overwhelmingly stacked in our favour.”