The Australian Dental Association NSW supports water fluoridation as a safe, effective and equitable way of preventing tooth decay.
Since water fluoridation began in NSW more than 60 years ago we have seen considerable improvements in oral health, and no reliable evidence that water fluoridation as practised in Australia is associated with any adverse health effects or chronic conditions.
The safety of fluoridation was confirmed again as recently as November 2017 by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the expert body responsible for developing health advice for the Australian community, health professionals and governments.
The NHMRC’s Public Statement on Water Fluoridation and Human Health in Australia states: “There is no reliable evidence of an association between community water fluoridation at current Australian levels and any health problems.”
Worldwide, fluoridation has been endorsed by more than 150 scientific, health, professional and government organisations, with the World Health Organization saying: “Fluoridation of water supplies, where possible, is the most effective public health measure for the prevention of dental decay.”
Fluoride is not a medicine, but a naturally-occurring substance found in natural water sources and common foods, including tea and seafood. The process of fluoridation adjusts the fluoride level to deliver the optimum amount to protect teeth. In places such as Narrabri, residents’ teeth are already protected by the levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in the water. In others, like Tamworth, the community has enjoyed the oral health advantages of fluoridation for over 50 years.
Fluoride in drinking water benefits everyone throughout their lifetime, from childhood to old age, making teeth more resistant to decay and helping to repair early tooth decay.
Children and the elderly, people living in rural and remote Australia, families on lower incomes and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have higher rates of dental decay. So do people living without water fluoridation. Only 7 per cent of NSW residents, including those in Gunnedah, do not have access to fluoridated water.
Tooth decay can have devastating effects including pain, infection and impacts on appearance, and can result in time away from school and paid work. Alarmingly, it can also lead to hospitalisation. In the Hunter New England health district in 2015-16, dental conditions led to more than 2,300 potentially preventable hospital admissions. Many of these patients were children under 5, whose rotten teeth had to be filled or pulled out under general anaesthetic.
ADA NSW urges Gunnedah Shire Council to implement fluoridation so the entire community can enjoy the benefits of improved oral health.
Residents with questions about water fluoridation can speak to their dentist or GP. If they want to protect their and their family’s teeth, they can make a submission supporting fluoridation at www.gunnedahfluoride.com.au.
Dr Kathleen Matthews, BDS Grad Cert Clinical Ed
Vice President ADA NSW