Put fluoride back in New Plymouth’s water

says Taranaki DHB

3 June 2015

Putting fluoride back into New Plymouth’s water supply is the most safe, effective and affordable way to prevent tooth decay said Rosemary Clements, Taranaki DHB’s Acting CE to Councillors this afternoon at the hearing of NPDC Long Term Plan submissions. “Without community water fluoridation, the future health of our community and particularly our children’s health will suffer”.

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New Plymouth District Council removed fluoride from New Plymouth’s water supply in 2011. It had been in the water since the 1970’s and this afternoon, Taranaki DHB today strongly recommended to Council that fluoride is reintroduced into the district’s water supplies.

Mrs Clements said, “Tooth decay is a tragic and unnecessary burden affecting children and their whanau and stretches a public health system when the decay is severe. Unlike any other initiative, water fluoridation can reach into every home each day, and it requires absolutely no behaviour change to have a positive effect.”

"On the strength of the 272 submissions NPDC has received supporting community water fluoridation, Taranaki DHB believes there is a ground swell of public support for fluoridation to be returned to New Plymouth’s water supplies,” commented Mrs Clements.

Dr Andrea Kelsen, Taranaki DHB Dental Surgeon talked about the effect non-fluoridated water is having on young children. “A number of very young children have been placed on the DHB’s General Anaesthetic (GA) lists for treatment of infection and dental decay. These children have multiple abscesses and teeth that require extraction, fillings and/or crowns.”

Dr Kelsen said, “Our GA statistics show that these children are most likely to be from, low socio economic, Māori, pacific island groups. We need prevention of the decay before it negatively affects these individuals for life.”

“An unequitable burden of disease is carried in higher deprivation communities and in children. The benefits of water fluoridation are greatest in communities with socio-economic disadvantage, for Maori and Pacific and for children and the elderly, though the entire community will benefit,” added Dr Kelsen.

A number of Dental therapists and Dental Assistants who work everyday with children in the DHB’s Community Oral Health Clinics attended the presentation to show their support for the reintroduction of fluoridation into our districts water supplies.

Deneille Walden, Taranaki DHB Dental Therapist & Oral Health Educator said “Who misses out when fluoride in the water is low? It is our babies, it is our tamariki/children, it is our whanau. We want New Plymouth District Council to ‘top up’ the level of fluoride in our water to help make the teeth of whanau healthier.”

Dr Jonathan Jarman, Taranaki DHB’s Medical Officer of Health explained to Councillors that community water fluoridation is just topping up what is already present in the water.  “Dissolved fluoride in water is everywhere but in New Zealand our levels are less than those required to provide optimal protection for the teeth”. 

He also explained the cost of community water fluoridation at 50 cents per person per year was far less than the cost of $130 for a filling.  “Community water fluoridation is an extremely cost effective way to protect children’s dental health,” he said.

“The Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor, Sir Peter Gluckman thoroughly reviewed the pros and cons of community water fluoridation last year.  He concluded there is compelling evidence fluoride works and is safe at the levels used in New Zealand,” said Dr Jarman.

“Community fluoridated water is supported by hundreds of reputable organisations nationally and internationally and is practised in 30 countries around the world. It is estimated 370 million people world wide drink fluoridated water everyday,” he added.

In her conclusion, Pauline Lockett, Chair of Taranaki District Health Board urged Councillors to think about the oral wellbeing of our children and our District as a whole.

Ms Lockett said, “Our children can not vote. Your Worship the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and Councillors are all the ‘gatekeepers’ on this matter and your votes represent the children of the New Plymouth District. Your vote to reintroduce fluoride into our drinking water is also a vote for improving the oral health of our community and particularly our children’s oral health and wellbeing.”

“In partnership, Taranaki DHB and NPDC can work together to ensure that our community has the opportunity to have the best oral health outcomes possible by both of us supporting prevention and putting fluoride into our districts water supples,” she said.

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Last updated: Thursday, June 4, 2015

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