The heated issue of water fluoridation is back on the public radar, but this time with a new consumer twist.

Debate over whether adding fluoride to drinking water helps to prevent tooth decay has raged for years, even though the Canadian Dental Association says years of research have proven it does.

Now, the public health board serving the London region is asking Queen’s Park establish a provincial fluoridation office to serve the public for information on the issue.

The request was triggered by conflicting information in the media about the effects of fluoridation, with one doctor’s column suggesting excess amounts can cause death.

“Fluoride is a very emotional, very controversial subject,” said Neil Farrell, Middlesex-London health unit’s director of dental services.

While the Canadian Dental Association says more than 50 years of research prove the safety and effectiveness of fluoride at preventing tooth decay, opponents of fluoridation are strong and loud, Farrell said.

Farrell told his board this week such information can create concern and confusion, and that’s why establishing a central office is essential.

“Questions are arising throughout the province.”

He said the fluoridation office would evaluate Ontario data, provide the latest scientific research about fluoride and keep track of concerns.

About 70 per cent of Ontario’s population, including London, has access to fluoridated municipal water.

The Ontario Association of Public Health Dentistry is making the push to create the office, which might employ one person on contract, Farrell said. The local health unit is urging other health boards to support establishing the office, which would be funded by the province.

Farrell is uncertain when such an office could be ready.

“One of the problems that’s happened already is you’re not sure which ministry you’re talking about (to fund). If it (opened) within six months, I’d be very happy.”

Farrell said the health unit’s position is fluoride protects oral health. About one in eight children suffers tooth decay.

Farrell recommends a child use only a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and kids under three, fluoride-free toothpaste.