Tens of thousands of children have decayed teeth because local councils are failing to fluoridate town water.
That’s the statement from the lead author of a University of Sydney study linking fluoride and dental health.
Professor Anthony Blinkhorn said the four-year study looked at rates of decayed, missing and filled teeth among 5 to 7 year olds in three communities: Wyong, which has fluoridated water; Gosford City which switched to fluoridated water at the start of the study; and the Byron and Ballina Shires with unfluoridated water.
The study found 63 percent of children with fluoridated water in Wyong were decay free, compared to 51 percent of children in Gosford and 49 percent in Byron/Ballina with unfluoridated water.
Blinkhorn, who is also NSW Chair of Population Oral Health, said the data showed decisions about fluoridation were affecting the health of children.
“Tens of thousands of children across Australia are suffering tooth decay because of the failure to ensure water supplies are fluoridated,” Blinkhorn said in a statement.
"Under current laws, regional and rural councils have the power to decide whether to fluoridate water supplies, despite the weight of evidence showing fluoride prevents decay and agreement from scientific and medical experts that fluoride is safe.”
Fluoridating water is left up to councils in NSW and Queensland and University of Adelaide associate professor Jason Armfield said it was unfair.
“It’s an equality issue,” Armfield said.
“Here’s something affordable that we know provides health benefits and it’s not fair that all Australians don’t have access to it.
“It shouldn’t be a matter of politics or bureaucracy.
"Often when councils are deciding whether to introduce fluoridated water, the councilors are people with no medical or scientific background and they listen to a small minority of anti-fluoride campaigners.
"It's not up for debate, there's a lot of evidence showing fluoride is helpful and no evidence to show it's harmful."
Across all groups, the study also showed rates of Aboriginal children without tooth decay was significantly lower, with 57 percent for non-Aboriginal children and 37 percent for Aboriginal children.
Adjunct senior lecturer Roy Byun said Aboriginal dental health was a complex and ongoing issue.
“We’ve been aware of the gap for some time,” Byun said.
“A 2007 study showed 35 percent of Aboriginal children aged five or six did not have any decay in deciduous teeth compared to 62 percent of non-Aboriginal children.
"Also the number of cavities was about double in Aboriginal children. It’s hard to understand why it is the case.
"It’s not just about oral hygiene, it’s also about knowledge and education, access to a toothbrush and toothpaste and also diet.”