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New push for fluoride in water

By Tessa Johnstone

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A dental health advocate who recently pulled six teeth out of a 17-month-old told South Wairarapa District Council that putting fluoride in the water could reduce preventable oral health issues.

South Wairarapa's water supply is not fluoridated, although Masterton's supply is.

Regional public health representatives spoke to South Wairarapa District Council last week about the benefits of adding fluoride, particularly for children.

Oral health clinical director Neil Stevens said those affected by poor dental hygiene are generally those who could not afford to remedy it.

Mr Stevens told the council he pulled six teeth out of a 17-month-old child recently.

"Fluoride is not going to stop that but reduce the number of times we have to do it."

Wairarapa Oral Health Services clinical team leader Lynette Field said of 33 children who were referred to the mobile surgical bus - which performs non-urgent operations not usually done at Wairarapa Hospital - since the beginning of the year, 45 per cent lived in areas without fluoridated water.

She said the tooth decay she sees is caused by the food and drink children are consuming, a lack of brushing, and bacteria in children's mouths.

While fluoridating the water did not prevent tooth decay entirely, her experience was that decay was significantly slowed in children who lived in fluoridated areas.

"I want everyone to have the same chance. I can't stress how important teeth are to your general health."

Medical Officer of Health Jill McKenzie acknowledged that the issue raised "different opinions".

"It's not just about poor oral health but the ongoing issues of people who have it have. It's extremely important to well-being and can affect employment and socialising later in life."

She said putting fluoride in the water gave all people access to a substance that supported good oral health, regardless of socio-economic status.

"It will be important for there to be community consultation but it needs to occur in a way which allows all people to have a say, not just a few people that have certain opinions one way or another."

- WAIRARAPA TIMES-AGE

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