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Waikato DHB 'very disappointed' with fluoride decision

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Statement from Dr Felicity Dumble, Medical Officer of Health, Waikato District Health Board.

We are very disappointed in the result of the Hamilton City Council vote following the Tribunal. The councillors who voted it out discounted the mainstream opinion of the vast majority of dentists and doctors in Hamilton and in New Zealand. Based on the 2006 referendum and the 2013 residents survey they have also not voted in line with the wishes of the majority of Hamilton residents who want it retained. They instead listened to a highly vocal minority (many of whom are not Hamilton residents) and as a result the oral health of Hamilton residents will suffer, dental decay will increase and DHB dental services will be stretched and resource will need to be reallocated. It's not just about the costs of treatment but the additional pain and misery associated with avoidable tooth decay.

A conservative estimate of the impact will be an additional 2000 avoidable cavities and fillings per year for the residents of Hamilton. This extra oral decay won't be distributed evenly. Some will remain without tooth decay while some may experience greater burden, enough to tip some children into requiring treatment under General Anaesthetic. This is costly and exposing them to unnecessary risk. Not only will oral health in Hamilton decline, but inequities based on ethnicity and socio-economic status will increase. The NZDA and Te Ao Marama (the NZ Maori Dental Association) are strongly in support of Community Water Fluoridation (CWF).

The DHB already invests heavily in multiple strategies to improve and protect oral health. These include oral health promotion and education regarding tooth brushing, oral hygiene and diet, preventive treatments including fluoride varnish (16,000 varnish applications since July 2012) and tooth brushing and nutrition programmes in schools. Fluoridation has provided additional benefit with 10% more mouths without decay in areas with CWF compared to those without. It is now more important than ever for people to brush their teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste, eat a good diet and have regular dental check ups as we have always encouraged as part of our multifaceted approach to oral health.

The following statement should be attributed to Craig Climo, Chief Executive, Waikato District Health Board

To say the least of the decision, I am very disappointed. The only positive is that there is nothing more we could have done. The DHB had a high powered team of 12 local and national experts consisting of doctors, dentists and scientists who did an outstanding job of presenting the evidence.

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