New Zealand

Cities with fluoridated water see half the tooth decay among kids

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Cities with fluoridated water see half the tooth decay among kids

Related tags New zealand

Children who live in New Zealand cities where fluoride is not added to the water supply have up to 95% more tooth decay than those where fluoridation is the norm.

According to Arthi Veerasamy, of Canterbury University, four-year-olds in Christchurch, the only Kiwi city without municipal water fluoridation, have almost twice as much tooth decay than kids of the same age in Wellington. 

At the same time, nine-year-olds in Christchurch have on average 80% more decay in their adult teeth than their peers in Wellington, where water is fluoridated.

Fluoride controversy

Like other parts of the world, water fluoridation is a controversial subject in New Zealand, and the issue has been the subject of heated debate. Water fluoridation is endorsed by the Ministry of Health but rejected by some communities and organisations, including the Fluoride Action Network.

Owing to the pressure from anti-fluoridation campaigners, the practice was stopped in some areas of the Canterbury region surrounding Christchurch. A dental health survey in October 2000 showed 60% of Christchurch residents did not support water fluoridation.

Although Veerasamy identified the differences between the teeth of children in Christchurch and the rest of New Zealand, her study had set out to focus on the level of oral health literacy among New Zealand parents.

The researcher surveyed more than 100 parents to find out the awareness of parents of pre-school aged children regarding their children’s teeth, finding out that over one-third had poor oral health literacy—even among those parents who work in the education sector.

Parental knowledge

The results also indicated that there were associations present between parents' oral health literacy and socio-demographic variables such as ethnicity, education and family income. 

Nearly half of the parents surveyed opted for water fluoridation in Christchurch, showing a strong association between those with good knowledge of treats to their children’s teeth and their attitude towards water fluoridation.

Many past studies have supported the importance of parental health literacy in a child's health outcome. The development of the permanent first molar is initiated in the fourth month of intra-uterine life and teeth need to last for the child's lifetime​,” Veerasamy said.

The intervention to prevent oral diseases should be started even before the birth of the child making it parents’ responsibility to protect the child's teeth​. 

Parents are responsible for preventing decay and caring for children's oral health in the pre-adolescent period; so parents should have good knowledge about preventing early childhood caries and protecting the child's oral health system​.”

Related topics Policy Oceania Fortification

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Posted by Tom,

are the sample populations (socio-economic) comparable between the locations? also the significance from a sample of 100 is essentially meaningless.

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Posted by Bill,

The numbers taken from fluoridated vs non fluoridated, are they even ?
auckland 4900 non fluoridated. 42 Fluoridated. Thats not what I'd call a good sample. The same sample indifferences are noted in Wellington and Christchurch, both whom have higher decay in the fluoridated regions than the non fl. Guess they didnt mention that

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fluoride is ineffefctive and dangerous

Posted by jwillie6,

The world has learned the truth that fluoridation is ineffective for teeth and dangerous to health, so only 5% of the world and only 3% of Europe fluoridate their drinking water, more in the U.S. than the rest of the world combined. Data from the World Health Organization shows that the tooth decay rate in Europe is as good or better than any fluoridated country including the U.S., with over 70% fluoridation.

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