Water fluoridation is one of the 20th Century’s most important advances in public health. It has been successfully practised for more than 70 years.
However, tens of thousands of our children will continue to suffer from bad teeth as a growing number of anti-science local councils remain determined to strongly resist fluoridating their drinking water.
Where drinking water does not have optimal levels of fluoride, should the state and federal Governments mandate its use?
The journalists behind the Daily Telegraph’s “Bite Back Campaign” think so.
Fluoride is the name given to a group of compounds which include the element fluorine. It is present in water and soil. It is in seawater and underground water. Occasionally, naturally-occurring optimal amounts of fluoride are found in town water, in places such as Portland, Nhill, Port Fairy, Barnawartha and Kaniva in Victoria and Quilpie, Thargomindah and Adavale in Queensland.
Fluoride is also in tea leaves, raisins, carrots, potatoes, wine, meat, fish and rice. It’s as natural as salt.
In the 1940s, scientists discovered that people who lived in areas with high levels of naturally occurring fluoride had fewer dental cavities than their fluoride-deprived neighbours. The optimal level of fluoride is approximately 0.7 parts per million. The main benefit of fluoride is that it can reduce demineralization and by enhancing re-mineralisation, rebuilds tooth enamel which has been eroded by decay. It also strengthens adults’ teeth, which helps those of us who grew up before fluoridated water and fluoride toothpaste.
In Australia, the first water fluoridation program commenced in 1953 in Beaconsfield, Tasmania. Hobart and Canberra fluoridated their water in 1964, and most states and territories followed in the next decade, except Queensland.
In 2008, the Queensland Government finally mandated widespread fluoridation. However, in 2012, a new government legislated to transfer responsibility back to the local councils. Since then, more than 20 Queensland councils have either ceased, or have not commenced, water fluoridation and now more than 500,000 including more than 40 per cent of their Indigenous population, are being deprived of its health benefits.
Recognising an urgency to reduce the levels of tooth decay across the country, the “Healthy Mouths Healthy Lives: Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2004–2013″, prepared by the National Advisory Committee on Oral Health (NACOH), urged all state and territory governments to increase the spread of fluoridation. They recommended, as a matter of importance, extending it to public water supplies in communities across Australia with populations of 1,000 or more. The draft of National Oral Health Plan 2015-24 supports this recommendation. Discussed at the COAG Health Council meeting in August 2015, it has yet to be published.
A 2015 study found that in a low socio-economic area with high levels of tooth decay, there was a significant reduction only three years after the introduction of water fluoridation. Despite these positive findings, a growing band of anti-fluoride campaigners continue to spruik misinformation and to spread fear in our communities.
Supported by influential celebrities, they claim that it is poisoning our children, causes low intelligence, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, osteoporosis and cancer. They also proclaim fluoridated water is a form of “mass medication”, without acknowledging that sometimes Mother Nature provides the same outcome, and those who drink it do not suffer any health problems.
In reality, there is no evidence that having optimal amounts of fluoride in drinking water does anything but reduce tooth decay!
Without access to fluoridated drinking water, we are condemning our children to a life-time of poor health and expensive dental interventions. Water fluoridation is for the whole population, not just children. The “Bite Back Campaign” aims to ensure that all people who live in towns with populations of more than 1,000, have access to fluoridated water. If the only way to achieve this is to hand control back to state or federal government, they have my vote!