The New Zealand Dental Association has re-iterated its support of fluoride in drinking water as a safe and effective way of improving public health.

The association today responded to claims made by an outspoken critic of community water fluoridation, Dr Paul Connett, who is currently touring the country with the support of the Fluoride Free NZ organisation.

The tour is underway while the Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill awaits its second reading in parliament. The bill – which would give power to district health boards to make decisions and give directions about the fluoridation of local government drinking water supplies in their areas – has sparked controversy, particularly areas where councils or communities have voted against fluoridation.

The Dental Association today reconfirmed its submission to the committee in which its president Dr Susan Gorrie told the Health Select committee that the bill was not about the science of fluoridation but about who should make the decision about the fluoridation of drinking water.

In their submission they pointed out that fluoride naturally occurs in water but most water sources in New Zealand did not naturally contain enough fluoride to help prevent tooth decay. But increasing fluoride to the optimal levels of 0.7 to 1.0 mg/L recommended by the Ministry of Health was proven to safely and effectively improve public health by greatly reducing dental decay.

Around 60% of New Zealanders on reticulated water supplies receive fluoridated water, amounting to 54% of the total population. Internationally community water fluoridation is practiced in over 30 countries, providing optimally fluoridated water to over 370 million people.

The Association also pointed out that – due to the dramatic decline in tooth decay due to community water fluoridation over the past 70 years – the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have named fluoridation as one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th century.

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