Fluoride Action Network

School leader says kids suffering dental ‘abuse’

Source: The Daily Post (Rotura) | September 24th, 2007 | By KRISTIN MACFARLANE
Location: New Zealand

A secondary school principal says the absence of fluoride in Rotorua’s water supply is a form of child abuse.

John Paul College principal Patrick Walsh said he was disgusted to hear how bad Rotorua’s dental problem was at a meeting between primary and secondary school principals and dental health experts.

Rotorua has the worst dental hygiene in New Zealand behind Northland.

Both regions do not fluoridate their water.

A factor in Rotorua’s bad dental hygiene is a lack of dentists and dental therapists in the city which meant students have to wait two to three months to be seen.

Alternatively, they were being told to travel to Tauranga or Taupo for faster care.

“To me that is just a totally unacceptable situation,” Mr Walsh said.

Mr Walsh said the only way to help ease the problem was to fluoridate Rotorua’s water supply. Not doing so was a form of child abuse, he says.

“I think we’re cutting our children short.

“It’s like getting into a third world country.”

He felt students were reluctant to visit dental clinics or doctors, so pumping fluoride in their water would improve their oral health without them realising it.

“My major priority is really to persuade council to put fluoride in the water.”

Mobile dental clinics parked at each high school until all students were seen would also be a good idea.

Mr Walsh and his family moved to Rotorua from Auckland where water is fluoridated four-and-a-half years ago.

Before then, none of his children Liam, 14, Fintan, 11, Eamon, 7, and Orla, 4, had any dental problems.

However, Fintan and Eamon have had fillings despite them brushing twice a day and Mr Walsh giving his children fluoride tablets.

He said nothing compares to fluoridated water.

Medical officer of health Dr Phil Shoemack agreed and said he has been campaigning for the council to fluoridate Rotorua’s water for years.

“It seems to be a controversial subject … I’ve never fully understood [why].

“To me its far from being controversial,” he said.

Dr Shoemack noted Taupo children’s teeth were in much better condition than those in Rotorua.

“Taupo gets fluoridated water, Rotorua doesn’t,” he said.

Dr Shoemack said children should brush their teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, improve nutrition and regularly visit a dentist to improve their dental hygiene.

He did not recommend fluoride tablets because they did not do as good a job as fluoridation.

Both Mr Walsh and Dr Shoemack could not understand why the Rotorua District Council had not already fluoridated the city’s water supply.

“I think its something that should be on the local body election agenda, it’s such an important issue,” Mr Walsh said.

Rotorua District Council utilities and operations manager Eric Cawte said councils had the authority to make a decision to fluoridate the city’s water supply.

If that was made by the Rotorua council then he would be in charge of implementing it, but admitted it would not be an easy process.

“We would have to design and purchase some equipment to put it in,” he said.

Although it would take some time before it would be under way in Rotorua, Mr Cawte said there were a lot of councils that were fluoridating water and equipment was available.