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Fluoride Debate Set to Start in Rural Southland

Media Release
Attention: Health Reporter/Editor

Wednesday, 5 November 2003

Fluoride Debate Set to Start in Rural Southland

Dr Tim Mackay, Principal Dental Officer Southland District Health Board (SDHB), and the Southland District Council are to start a public consultation process, which is seen as a key step in fluoridating a number of rural communities.

Dr Mackay says that the children in a number of rural communities suffer from greater tooth decay when compared to children who live in fluoridated Invercargill. Dental decay is a preventable infective disease, but the impact of the disease can be significantly decreased through water fluoridation. Dr Mackay says that historically, water fluoridation has been shown to be both safe and cost-effective.

“Large proportions of the world use fluoridated toothpaste daily, which has fluoride concentrations 1000 times more than fluoridated drinking water, and this has also historically been shown to be safe and very effective”.

Ensuring the oral health of children is looked after, and not seeing children suffer from dental decay is a priority for Dr Mackay. As a dental public health specialist, Dr Mackay says he is proud to wear the label of a “Fluoridation Zealot”, which local anti-fluoridationists recently labeled him on the Internet.

“Someone has to act as an advocate for children and the benefits of good oral health”, he says.

Annual data collected from the local School Dental Service (2001) shows the difference in decay rates by school decile rating (socio-economic rating) and fluoride status of 12-year-olds. For the Southland region, on average a 12-year-old had 2.2 fillings each, with children from fluoridated areas having 1.8 fillings and non-fluoridated having 2.6 fillings.

“Fluoridation benefits children by reducing the amount of tooth decay they experience” he says. As an example, Bluff School children, who have fluoridated water, had 1.7 fillings each on average, whereas Riverton School children, who have non-fluoridated water, had on average 2.9 fillings each.

“Ultimately the decision to fluoridate rests with each community, and the social responsibility that this enshrines.” Dr Mackay says. “Fluoridation benefits the oral health of children, particularly those from families who experience some form of social deprivation. Generally it is these people who aren’t able to represent themselves”.

Community consultations in Ohai/Nightcaps, Otautau, Riverton, Tuatapere and Winton are to commence in mid November 03 and will be advertised in the coming weeks.


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