SOUTH AUSTRALIA will push the states to fast-track approval to add fluoride to bottled water in an attempt to cut down on tooth decay among children.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand has an application before it to allow the addition of fluoride to bottled water, but a decision could still be more than a year away.

The food regulation ministerial council will meet in Brisbane tomorrow and South Australia’s health minister John Hill said he would be pushing for the application to be expedited as a public health priority.

“Australian research shows that since fluoride has been added to mains supply, tooth decay has dramatically declined across Australia,” Mr Hill said.

“However, at the moment there is a ban on adding fluoride to bottled water and this needs urgent reconsideration so that parents choosing bottled water will still protect their children’s teeth.”

Robert Boyd-Boland, the chief executive of the Australian Dental Association, said the association supported accelerating the process to approve the addition of fluoride.

Mr Boyd-Boland said there was evidence that children were drinking more sports drinks and fruit drinks, and that they were drinking more bottled water without fluoride, noting the increase in tooth decay in children.

While he would not make a direct link between the two, he said it was a “strong coincidence”.

Mr Boyd-Boland pointed to the national adult oral health survey released last year, which he said “clearly indicated the benefits of fluoridisation”.

“There’s a fluoride generation coming through with much less tooth decay than the generation before,” he said.

Christopher Cain, the president of the Australian Medical Association (South Australia), said adding fluoride to bottled water would be a very significant move, likening it to the adding folate to bread to prevent birth defects.

“It’s appropriate to take action on this just like folate, where it’s established that the health initiative will have an impact,” Mr Cain said.

“There’s also a link between dental health and general health.”