NWHHS support fluoridation of water supplies

NWHHS Board Chair Paul Woodhouse has welcomed the growing support for the fluoridation.
NWHHS Board Chair Paul Woodhouse has welcomed the growing support for the fluoridation.

North West Hospital and Health Board Chair Paul Woodhouse has welcomed the growing support for the fluoridation of town water supplies.  

Mr Woohouse said the lack of fluoridation in local water was initially raised as a significant risk for oral health several months ago by Board Member and public health physician Dr Kathryn Panaretto.

“Dr Panaretto has extensive experience in the North West as a GP at Mount Isa’s Gidgee Healing,and with the Remote Women’s Health clinics at Julia Creek and Cloncurry.’’

Mr Woodhouse said North West HHS oral health practitioners had said fluoridated communities had up to 50% less dental decay than non-fluoridated communities.

“Fluoridation addresses inequities in dental decay rates, reducing the gap between high and low socio-economic groups in terms of dental decay experience. It is cost-effective and benefits all ages,” Mr Woodhouse said.

Mr Woodhouse said he had met with Queensland’s Chief Dental Officer Dr Mark Brown and Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Jeanette Young and had also raised the matter with Health and Ambulance Services Minister Steven Miles.

Local councils remain cautious saying they would need state funding.

Cloncurry Mayor Greg Campbell said they would act on advice from the Local Government Association Queensland and given the publicity on fluoride he expected that matter to be raised at the upcoming LGAQ conference in Brisbane.

“This is a health initiative driven by the state and they should provide the funding to do it,” Cr Campbell said.

Mount Isa Mayor Joyce McCulloch agreed saying the state-owned Mount Isa Water Board would have to implement fluoride into the water system.

“This is an emotive issue for many in the community and our feeling is that it should be a community decision,” Cr McCulloch said.

“Unless it is legislated, Council won’t implement it.”

However Mount Isa Hospital Senior Dentist Dr Travis Blood said if the community could avoid the use of sugary drinks and if fluoride was available through the town water supply, the benefits, especially to children’s oral health, would be significant.

“Every day we see children in pain, with infection and often with facial swelling,’’ he said. 

“This is 100% preventable if people give their teeth a rest between meals. This means no snacking or grazing at all, and only drinking plain water.

“Cleaning teeth with a toothbrush and dental floss twice per day also helps a lot. But for those who do not do what is needed to prevent dental disease, and that is many people, then fluoride at the appropriate level helps reduce the damage.’’

Mr Woodhouse said the health service had wait lists for dental treatment under general anaesthetic.

“That means there are (generally children) waiting to have rotten teeth extracted under general anaesthetic,’’ he said.

Statistics show Mount Isa Hospital had 123 dental admissions to the Children’s Ward in the last financial year for either dental extractions or oral and dental disorders.

The National Health and Medical Research Council latest statement on Water Fluoridation and Human Health in Australia, (November 2017) says there is reliable evidence that community water fluoridation helps to prevent tooth decay

“There is no reliable evidence of an association between community water fluoridation at current Australian levels and any health problems,” the statement said.

The current push for fluoridation started in September when AMA Queensland and the Australian Dental Association Queensland called on Mount Isa City Council to reverse its 2013 decision and immediately commence fluoridating its water supplies.

“It is a travesty that this council abandoned fluoridation before the long-term benefits for the community became apparent,” AMA Queensland President Dr Dilip Dhupelia said.

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