A South Taranaki dentist has jumped into the fluoride debate, saying there is a link between poor dental hygiene in Patea and the absence of fluoridated water.
Dental surgeon Sandie Pryor says Patea and Waverley’s water should be fluoridated after doing an informal study into links between fluoridation and tooth decay, comparing Patea with Hawera.
A dentist for 29 years, Ms Pryor said her study showed a clear difference between the dental health of Patea children, who have an unfluoridated water supply, and Hawera.
But Fluoride Action Network campaigner Mark Atkin said no study accounted for low socio-economic status, and that large, well-off centres would be better off than smaller, unfluoridated, towns.
“Decile rating can account for up to 150 per cent worsening of tooth decay, regardless of fluoridation status,” he said.
Ms Pryor has compiled statistics on her own, spanning two twelve-month periods in 2007 and 2010, comparing the numbers of decayed, missing or filled teeth in 15-year-olds and 17-year-olds in Patea with those in Hawera.
“The results show a significant difference between the numbers of decayed, missing or filled teeth in the two towns, clearly showing that the oral health of children in Patea is unacceptable when you see that there is anywhere between 75 per cent and 250 per cent more decay in Patea teeth.”
Ms Pryor works in both centres and although her evidence is anecdotal she believes it clearly shows the benefit of a fluoridated water supply.
Between March 2010 and February 2011, 11 17-year-olds had decayed, missing or filled teeth, compared with three in Hawera, she said.
Patea has a population of 1143 while 8367 people live in Hawera.
Ms Pryor said a breakdown in the South Taranaki District Council’s fluoride plant at the water treatment station from 2006 to 2009 had also provided valuable information on all children’s teeth in Hawera.
She said that during that time there had been a marked change in the type of dental work required.
“In 2006 only five Hawera children needed fillings or extractions in Hawera, while 16 children lined up for treatment in 2010.
“There was also an increase in the number needing complicated fillings done rather than minor ones.”
Hawera and New Plymouth are the only Taranaki towns with fluoridated drinking water and Mrs Pryor says that is not good enough.
But Mr Atkin said fluoridation must be suspended until the international scientific community had reached a consensus that it was safe, and that there was little proof that drinking fluoridated water was the best way to protect teeth.