Feds bitten by dentists over local government fluoridation failures

By Julian Bajkowski

Australia’s official body for dentists has taken a bite out of Australia’s main political parties over what it claims is a “deafening silence” over local governments controversially removing fluoride from town water supplies against the interests of public health.

The Australian Dental Association (ADA) is warning that taxpayers and the federally funded Child Dental Benefits Scheme will soon have to pick-up the big tab for an increase in tooth decay that will stem from councils stopping fluoridation unless action is taken.

The dentists say no matter who wins the election, the anti-fluoridation rot needs to stop quickly as more children succumb to serious decay.

“The Child Dental Benefits Scheme, which has bipartisan support, will be called on to fund more fillings or extractions if there is no longer support for fluoride,” said Dr Karin Alexander, federal president of the ADA.

“Does the future Federal Government really want to create further dental problems that will cost more to fix later?”

The dentist’s hard word on Canberra comes after Lismore Shire Council and Byron Shire Councils in New South Wales passed votes that would allow an end to fluoridation of water.

The issue is also burning in Queensland where an increasing number of councils – now more than 10 – have voted to stop fluoridation after the Campbell Newman government allowed local governments to opt out of what had previously been a requirement.

Dentists now want whoever gains power in Canberra to show firm leadership on the issue by pressing state governments in New South Wales and Queensland to stand up to anti-fluoride campaigners which most public health advocates believe are pushing arguments that are not well grounded in science.

“The Federal Government should not allow local councils to be swayed by fringe groups who peddle fear, innuendo and conspiracy theories to remove fluoride or discontinue its use from water supplies,” Dr Alexander said.

“We understand that the Federal Government does not have direct power over water supplies. However, that does not mean the future Federal Government has the right to stand idly by while Queensland and NSW divest their responsibility to public health.”

A number of public health advocates are also turning up the heat on councils and state governments to check the influence of anti-treatment campaigners, citing increasing dental problems among young people.

Fairfax Media this month cited figures from the NSW Department of Health that showed “hospital admissions for the removal or restoration of teeth among children aged up to four in the Northern NSW Local Health District was 563.5 per 100,000 children a year – about 93 children” compared to an “average across NSW [of] 331.1 per 100,000.”

The campaign by anti-fluoridation groups has also highlighted tensions within the NSW Cabinet after Health Minister Jillian Skinner reportedly said that a discussion paper, with public input, on whether the state should take over control of water fluoridation.

However NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell later batted away any notion of Macquarie Street wresting control of fluoridation by saying it was a matter for councils to decide.

But even though the Premier is eschewing any formal intervention, Mr O’Farrell went on to blast Lismore Council’s vote against fluoridation as a “stupid decision” and suggested it could soon be reversed.

According to the Oral Health Committee of the ADA, the only NSW councils that are now fluoridating their water supplies are:

Ballina, Boorowa, Brewarrina, Byron, Cabonne, Carrathool, Lismore, Liverpool Plains (Gunnedah), Murrumbidgee, Narrabri, Narrandera, Narromine, Oberon, Rous County Council, Lismore, Richmond Valley, Upper Hunter, Wakool, Warren and Wentworth..

The ADA noted that “Kempsey is only partly fluoridated, but will soon increase its fluoridation program” while “Gwydir and Walgett are not currently fluoridated, but should commence very soon.”

Councils in Queensland that that ADA says were fluoridating but have now stopped since the Campbell Newman LNP government passed legislation to allow them to opt out are Cairns, Cherbourg, Doomadgee, North Burnett (Gayndah, Monto, Mundubbera), Rockhampton, South Burnett (Nanango, Murgon) and Wide Bay (Maryborough, Hervey Bay).

The ADA lists councils that were scheduled to fluoridate under the 2008 mandatory legislation, but have since decided to not to proceed as: Atherton Tablelands, Bundaberg, Cassowary Coast (Innisfail), Cloncurry, numerous water sources in the Toowoomba area, Whitsunday (Bowen, Proserpine), Balonne (St George), Barcaldine, Blackall, Murweh (Charleville), Paroo (Cunnamulla), Mount Isa.

But it’s not a one size fits all approach.

“There are often legitimate reasons why councils don't fluoridate their water supplies,” the ADA said.

“They may already have naturally occurring fluoride in the water at about the right level, fluoridation may be impractical and costly because the town water comes from a bore and isn't treated,” thye ADA said.

“Sometimes the town is too small, they have difficulty in attracting or retaining trained water treatment plant operators [or] the water tastes terrible and everyone drinks tank water.

“Unfortunately we are not able to identify the specific reasons why each of these towns isn't fluoridated, but in northern NSW the views of the alternative life-stylers are probably an influence.”

It is understood that issue of fluoridation will be among the topics put up for discussion and debated at the annual Local Government NSW Conference in Sydney on 1st October to 3rd October 2013.

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6 thoughts on “Feds bitten by dentists over local government fluoridation failures

  1. I live in the Rockhampton region and unfortunately the reasons for our local council discontinuing fluoride belong to the ‘tin foil hat’ brigade. It may seem hard to believe, but local councillors put forward reasons for removing fluoride such as; it makes my hydrangeas wilt; it causes dementia; it’s a mass medication and a poison; it costs too much money( by the way, it’s going to cost the State Government a lot more than 38 cents per person per year to cover the costs of dental care!).

    I wish the Queensland Government would follow the NSW governments lead in this issue and at least discuss the issue at a State level.

  2. Interestingly, the evidence that water fluoridation creates lower rates of tooth decay, is poor. That is what the ‘York Review’ found; a UK national review conducted by a team at the University of York (2000).

    Most countries do not practice water fluoridation. A great many of those countries achieve good, low rates of tooth decay, equal to or better than fluoridated countries. For example, which country in Europe has large scale fluoridation? Ireland only; nowhere else. According to the Australian Dental Association this should make Ireland the standout country, with low rates of decay. Not so. Ireland comes a long way down the table of decayed missing and filled teeth, for 6 year old, 12 year olds or adults.

    World Health Organization data on national tooth decay rates consistently show NON-fluoridating countries like the Netherlands, to have the lowest rates of decay. It makes me think that fluoridation is not very effective, and that these ADA types make too much noise, for strange reasons of their own.

  3. Perhaps the Federal government should inject the money, earmarked for the new National Dental Scheme, into water fluoridation if it is that good?

    Interestingly water fluoridation gets no mention in the proposed new scheme!


  4. So Councillors and Councils are “stupid” – is this professional behaviour to call our elected officials degrading names because they are usually acting on the wishes of their community?

    Nanango – fluoridated against the wishes of the community and their Council by Jeanette Young and her Fluoridation Committee. Nanango is on bore water so disgusting, not just in taste and smell, but also because there is no filtration on the bore! We don’t even was our cars in it because it corrodes and stains the paintwork, you want to see what it does to the plumbing!

    Now Young was advised that the plant had to have filtration fitted before setting up the fluoride dosing plant – did it happen – no it didn’t!

    Young was advised that NO ONE actually drinks the town water as we have tanks – her response – you have a 1019 kids in the schools that have to drink town water so you have a population of more than 1000 that drink the town water – the schools have huge rainwater tanks in the school grounds, the kids can purchase bottled water from their tuckshop or from the local store or they take their water from home! Water fluoridation went ahead and when we decided to stop it was not only because the community wasn’t drinking the stuff but also because we were not able to regulate the dose even to the school grounds!

    Now we have not had a bleat or a whimper from the ADA, AMA, Qld Health or any other fluoridation fanatic who seem to be very much the minority in this arguement – who says that they are the only “intelligent people”?

  5. Mr Bishop, you’re having this argument all by yourself. As a health professional I don’t claim to be ” the only intelligent person.” I would not presume such arrogance. I simply know what have treated for the last 20 years and how it can be helped. And if you think that he ADA, AMA, or QLD Health is staying quiet because they have no valid case, I’d suggest you think again.To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.

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