Five years after the City of Windsor ended 60 years of fluoridating its municipal drinking water, a new report by the Windsor and Essex County Health Unit describes a disturbing increase in cavities and other oral health problems among local children.
“The report is deeply concerning to us,” the health unit’s acting medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed told county council Wednesday night. After addressing Windsor city council last month, the health unit, backed by a number of local dental professionals, called on county municipalities to start fluoridating drinking water to help in the fight against cavities.
“I am just not keeping up,” Dr. Charles Frank, representing the Essex County Dental Society, said of an oral surgery waiting list now stretching into 2019.
“Our pediatric dentists are overwhelmed,” said Kim Casier, the health unit’s oral health manager who spoke out in favour of fluoridation.
Ahmed said the number of local children with “urgent dental needs” was double the provincial average. The report concluded that oral health has worsened among all local students looked at and among all socio-economic groups.
“No widely respected medical and health organization opposes fluoridation,” Ahmed said. “We are leaving a generation of children with very poor oral health.”
But several delegates questioned the new report’s findings and were critical of the health unit’s recommendations.
Kim DeYong of Flouride Free Windsor said the increase in cavities seen among those studied amounted to an additional half a cavity per child, and that the fluoride consumed in drinking water cannot be dosed to individuals, some of whom would be vulnerable to its toxicity.
“I was raised on non-fluoridated water and my teeth are just fine,” said Kingsville resident Tamara Stomp, a lawyer and former deputy mayor. Rather than “the mass doping of a water supply,” she suggested more efforts at oral health education and services for those who need them.
No municipality in the county currently adds fluoride to its drinking water. Both Tecumseh and LaSalle rely on Windsor’s municipal water supply, while the bulk of the county is serviced by Ruthven’s Union Water System, which doesn’t fluoridate due to water quality requirements of its agricultural clients.
“Fluoride has nothing to do with clean and safe drinking water,” said Leamington deputy mayor Hilda MacDonald, citing a Union Water System official she had spoken to.
“No question, this is extremely controversial,” said Tecumseh mayor and board of health chairman Gary McNamara, a supporter of fluoridation.
Dr. Anne Young, a local pediatric dental specialist, said the health unit’s report is “sobering” and requires a community response.
Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos said he is supportive of efforts to educate and improve local oral health services, including by seeking more funding from the province, but “I do have concerns even considering introducing fluoride.”
County Warden Tom Bain thanked the delegates who spoke for an hour but reminded all that the issue is up to the municipalities to decide. In May, before the 17 delegations who appeared before city council could speak on the matter, council voted to refer it to administration and wait until after the provincial election to see whether a new government would mandate provincewide fluoridation. None of Canada’s provinces currently mandates fluoridation.
“This responsibility should not be off-loaded to municipal councillors,” said DeYong.
For Windsor-Essex, the health unit’s report also found:
- Nearly 1 in 4 residents report having no dental insurance coverage
- Just over 1 in 10 households took their child to a dentist before their first birthday
- There is an average of 921 emergency department visits annually for problems related to oral health costing $508,259
- About four in five residents support community water fluoridation.
*Original article online at http://windsorstar.com/news/local-news/health-unit-calls-on-county-municipalities-to-fluoridate-water