Water fluoridation would be re-introduced into Sabah’s public water supply next year.
Health Deputy Minister Datuk Rosnah Abd Rashid Shirlin, disclosing this to Bernama here today, said the project was under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP).
“An allocation of RM2.5 million has been set for it,” she added.
Water fluoridation was discontinued in 1989 by the then State Government which feared inadequate supervision in the process of adding fluoride to the water could cause adverse effects.
A concentration of 1mg/L or more may likely cause dental fluorosis, an irreversible condition, among children.
However, the optimum fluoridated level set by the Health Ministry is between 0.5mg/L and 0.7mg/L. This level has been maintained as ensured by the National Standard for Drinking Water Quality (NSDWQ).
Fluoride plays a key role in the prevention of dental caries (tooth decay). An electronegative element, it helps in the mineralisation of bones and teeth of toddlers and young children. It also promotes repair of tooth enamel (outer layer) in areas that have been demineralised (dissolved) by acids.
The fluoridation process involves adding sodium fluoride or hydrofluoric acid to treated water before the latter is sent to the holding tanks.
The Malaysian government since 1972 approved fluoridation of water as a primary caries prevention programme. Community water fluoridation is regarded as the safest and most cost-effective method of reducing dental decay.
When the then Sabah Government ceased water fluoridation, there was an outcry by some well-meaning quarters which the Health Ministry had dismissed then, considering it a “State matter” as water is a State utility.
Incidentally, a 1985 Dental Health Survey of School Children in Sabah revealed the State has the “worst dental health scenario” compared to the rest of the country and the move by the then State Government was seen to compound the situation.
On Oct 18, Principal Director (Oral Health) in the Ministry of Health, Dato’ Dr Norain Abu Taib said at the National Oral Health Plan for Malaysia (2011 – 2020) Forum that only 75.5 percent of the country’s population were currently enjoying the benefits of water fluoridation.
Meanwhile, Rosnah said a total of 20 dental officers (doctors) were employed this year to serve in government dental clinics in Sabah.
“It is by far the largest intake as compared to previous years,” she said.