Northland children continue to chalk up the worst tooth decay rates nationallyDr Neil Croucher, NDHB dental adviser CAPTION2 Seven years after saying no to having fluoride in the water supply it is time the people of Whangarei reconsidered the issue, says Northland District Health Board.

The board is calling for Whangarei District Council to sound out the community over the controversial fluoridation issue within the next three years. In 2002 a council referendum saw the public clearly reject the idea – 62.4 per cent against with 37.6 per cent for.

Meanwhile, the health board’s dental adviser Dr Neil Croucher said Northland children continued to chalk up the worst tooth decay rates in New Zealand. Statistics from two years ago show every 5-year-old in the region has about five decayed teeth.

The board wants a multi-faceted approach to encouraging community dental health that includes daily exposure to low levels of fluoride. Brushing with adult strength fluoride toothpaste twice a day is effective, the board’s submission to the Long Term Council Community Plan says.

“It is the fluoridation of reticulated water supplies that would be the single most effective, practical and safe means of reducing dental decay in Whangarei.”

The board estimates that a fluoridated supply would reduce tooth decay across the district’s population by between 20 and 30 per cent.

A referendum was also due because the population had grown in the past seven years and newcomers might want their say, the board said.

Fluoridating water supplies has been a controversial issue in New Zealand since the measure was introduced in the 1950s.

In 2007 the Far North District Council began a two-year fluoridation trial in Kaikohe and Kaitaia, which was criticised for having been introduced without a solid mandate from the people.

That trial was paid for by the Ministry of Health.

Northland District Health Board is now offering a 100 per cent subsidy to continue the fluoridation for another two years.

Early in May, the Fluoride Action Network of New Zealand visited Whangarei as part of a national anti-fluoridation campaign.

Spokesman Mark Atkin said the days of adding the compound to public water supplies were numbered. The network said the Far North council had been pressured into “mass medicating” the population.

It claimed the health board’s trials were “unethical”.

The US Public Health Service had warned parents not to use fluoridated water to mix up infants’ milk formula, Mr Atkin said.