Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Hamilton council's fluoride leaflet slammed by dentists

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

A leaflet sent out by Hamilton City Council to explain its controversial decision to remove tooth decay-fighting fluoride from the city's drinking water has been slammed by dental authorities.

New Zealand's only dental training school said the one-page leaflet's oral health information is "wrong, unscientific and misleading" and residents should disregard it.

Dr Jonathan Broadbent, a public health dentistry specialist and researcher from the University of Otago's Faculty of Dentistry, said the newly-released information needs to be corrected.

"I suggest they have a public communication problem on their hands and need to act quickly to put the correct information out there; or seek help from those that really are in the business of producing health advice that the public can rely on," he said today.

Hamilton stopped adding fluoride to the civic water supply on June 21.

The council made a poor decision when it removed the health benefit of water fluoridation, the New Zealand Dental Association said today.

"It is not an authority on dental public health and is giving advice well outside its remit as a civic authority," said Dr Geoff Lingard, president of the Dental Association.

The leaflet appeared to have been over-simplified to the point where it did not reflect true and accepted public health advice, or the changed circumstance of Hamilton water now being "fluoride free", Dr Broadbent said.

It was wrong to indicate that low-fluoride toothpaste was best for children's teeth when the New Zealand 'Guidelines for the Use of Fluorides' state that "toothpaste of at least 1000 parts per million is recommended for all ages."

That measurement reflected standard fluoride toothpaste, not low fluoride toothpaste.

The city council's leaflet also suggested a "pea-sized" amount of toothpaste be used for all ages, and did not clarify that, as the national guidelines suggest "a smear of fluoride toothpaste is recommended until five years of age. From age 6 years, a pea-sized amount can be used."

Families should purchase toothpastes that contain at least 1000 ppm fluoride and avoid those labelled 'fluoride free', 'child strength' or 'low fluoride'," Dr Broadbent said.

The city council's claim that "applications by means that directly affect the tooth surface are more effective than fluoridation" has also been branded misleading because "fluoridated water also acts on the tooth surfaces by direct topical action".

"Each time we eat food and drinks prepared with fluoridated water, fluoride concentrations in the mouth remain elevated, so the teeth benefit both during and after eating. Water fluoridation works," Dr Broadbent said.

He also raised concerns that the council provides a link to its own web page regarding a health issue, rather than to the web page of a health authority.

Dr Broadbent's comments would be helpful to parents who require more detailed information on fluoride application, the council said today.

Council communications manager Elizabeth Hughes said a referendum on fluoride in October's local government elections would feature a brochure circulated with voting papers that would summarise both sides of the fluoride argument.

"The Waikato District Health Board is providing one side and Fluoride Free NZ the other. The council encourages all residents to inform themselves before participating in the referendum,'' she said.

"The council made its decision to remove fluoride based on a tribunal hearing and considering the evidence of doctors, scientists and authoritative sources from both sides of the debate.''


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