Jonathan Broadbent: For fluoride

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

This decision will undermine public health in New Zealand. We are going in the wrong direction. Right now, the Australian state of Victoria is spending A$3.6 million to build more fluoridation plants in rural parts of the state.

The World Health Organisation, the World Dental Federation and the International Association for Dental Research have all stated that "universal access to fluoride for dental health is part of the basic human right to health".

In New Zealand, a central part of the universal right to fluoride is community water fluoridation. The Ministry of Health Guidelines and Statements (2010) on fluoridation are clear: community water fluoridation is effective and safe, and community water supplies in New Zealand should be fluoridated at 0.7-1.0 parts per million (ppm) wherever feasible.

The seven councillors who voted against this in Hamilton were either unaware of this, or disregarded it (as well as disregarding the opinion of their own citizens from a 2006 referendum).

Those who are unwilling to drink fluoridated water should not be permitted to impose the risks, damage and costs of failure to fluoridate on others.

The ethics and science in support of fluoridation are clear, but antifluoridation arguments often present a highly misleading picture.

While the extent of tooth decay has reduced in recent decades, the disease remains more prevalent than other significant health conditions in New Zealand (such as asthma), particularly in unfluoridated areas and among disadvantaged New Zealanders.

The recent New Zealand oral health survey found much less tooth decay in fluoridated than non-fluoridated areas.

Following this decision, I hope that Hamilton can put a plan in place for the dental care of those who cannot afford it."

• Dr Jonathan Broadbent is a senior lecturer in preventive and restorative dentistry, University of Otago and president Otago branch of NZ Dental Association.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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