THE Australian Dental Association of NSW (ADA NSW) has called on Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to scrap a community poll on water fluoridation saying it is "baseless" and goes against expert health advice.
Councillors voted at the February ordinary meeting that council's chief executive officer, Dr Clare Allen, will advise councillors by April 2021 on possible options, with approximate cost, for ways to determine community opinion on water fluoridation.
This does not rule out a community poll held in conjunction with the September local government election which proposes to ask "yes or no: would you prefer that council stop adding fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid) to the public water supply?"
ADA NSW says council is continuing to put the oral health of thousands of local residents at risk by proceeding with possible plans to remove fluoride from local water supplies.
"The decision by Port Macquarie-Hastings councillors to ignore expert health advice and proceed with a community poll asking if fluoride should be removed from local water supplies is a huge backward step for the oral health of the 80,000 local residents," ADA NSW president Dr Kathleen Matthews said.
"Water fluoridation is a safe, effective and equitable means of preventing dental decay in children, adolescents and adults at a community level. The fluoridation of community water supplies is an effective way to deliver fluoride to all members of the community, regardless of age, individual motivation or socioeconomic status.
"Numerous studies have also illustrated the importance of fluoride in maintaining oral health. There is also strong evidence that water fluoridation reduces both Indigenous status-related and income-related inequalities in child oral health."
The ADA NSW says good oral health helps protect against serious and life-threatening chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
With one in seven Port Macquarie residents living in economic disadvantage, it would seem there are more pressing issues council should be addressing.Dr Kathleen Matthews
"Fluoride is a significant part of caring for teeth so it is hugely disappointing Port Macquarie-Hastings Council chooses to ignore this," Dr Matthews said.
"ADA NSW also notes that Port Macquarie-Hastings Council has estimated the cost of this community poll would be about $70,000. With one in seven Port Macquarie residents living in economic disadvantage, it would seem there are more pressing issues council should be addressing.
"ADA NSW thanks councillor Robert Turner for introducing the motion calling for this potential poll to be reconsidered.
"We continue calling on the rest of Port Macquarie-Hastings Council to end its baseless objection to water fluoridation and stop its plans for a community poll as soon as possible."
Fluoridation began in the Hastings in February 2012 after the council referred the decision to the state government. The construction and completion of the fluoridation plant was made possible with state government funding close to $1.8 million.
The NSW Department of Health subsequently directed the council to fluoridate its drinking water supply.
Former alderman Carl Lockwood supports the criticism by ADA NSW and Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams of council's decision.
Mr Lockwood, now in his 80s, was an elected representative 30 years ago and fiercely debated in favour of fluoridating the Hastings water supply.
"I come from Orange. My wife and I came here in 1979 and Orange was already fluoridating its water," Mr Lockwood said.
"We'd go to the dentist here and the first thing that was said to me was that I must have come from a fluoridated area. I'm in my 80s and I still have all my own teeth, so has my wife. And our three children between them have probably had two teeth filled in the last 60 years.
"It's so disappointing we've got a small council of six councillors in a situation like this. I'd really like proof that fluoridation has not worked in Port Macquarie in the last 20 years."