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Health Ministry 'clueless' about childhood tooth decay patterns

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Ministry of Health has no information about tooth decay profiles across NZ’s children, it admits under the Official Information Act.

US data show that 80% of tooth decay occurs in only 25% of the population, predominantly poor non-white children. The York Review found virtually no evidence that water fluoridation helps these children. In NZ, about 50% of children are free of tooth decay, whether fluoridated or not. So fluoridation cannot help that 50% of children. This shows that a targeted approach to reducing tooth decay in those most at risk is needed - not the mass medication one-size-fits-all lazy approach of water fluoridation.

NZ dental researchers Terry Cuttress, Betty de Liefde, and others have made the same observation here. So when the Ministry of Health says fluoridation most helps the poor, it doesn’t have data to support that. And the Ministry is seemingly not interested in receiving the data.

Excellent targeted programs in Canterbury, Northland, and the Waikato have reduced tooth decay by up to 50%. This was particularly notable amongst 5 year old Maori children in the Waikato. Similarly, the Child Smile program run by the National Health Service in Scotland has had excellent results.

We do know that in NZ tooth decay is increasing in fluoridated communities while decreasing in unfluoridated communities, according to the 2009 Oral Health Survey. Tooth decay has decreased significantly in Ashburton since it ceased fluoridation in 2002, contrary to the scaremongering claims of DHBs then, and since, in every community that proposes to cease the practice. Unfluoridated Christchurch children have significantly less tooth decay than in fluoridated Dunedin and Hamilton.

Overseas research also shows that fluoride most harms poor non-white populations. This has led to African-American and Latin-American leaders in the US calling for a ban on fluoridation, to protect the health of their communities. Maori and Pacific leaders should be doing the same here.

With the head of the National Poisons Centre stating that "the jury is still out" on fluoridation’s safety, it is high time the Ministry of Health took its head out of the sand, looked at the scientific evidence, and let go of its obsession with water fluoridation. Our poor need real, targeted, help with oral health; not a pretence that the Ministry cares about them by dumping toxic industrial waste in our water supplies, putting the health of everyone at risk.

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