Dentists say much childhood tooth decay is preventable. Mladen Sladojevic.
Dentists say much childhood tooth decay is preventable. Mladen Sladojevic.

Tooth decay on rise as flouride debate reignites

Not a day goes by at Southern DownsV Dental without dentists Jeff Green and Nicole Green treating a child for tooth decay.

It is the most common disease in children and the most common reason for hospitalisation and surgery in children, Dr Green said.

"And it's completely preventable."

They said it was unfortunate councils could save tens of thousands of dollars by not adding fluoride to the water supply, leaving state and federal governments and private individuals to pick up the bill by treating tooth decay.

Fluoride is most effective in reducing tooth decay when it runs across the teeth such as through drinking fluoridated water or in toothpaste, Dr Green said.

"Scientific research shows it is very safe, very effective and very ethical. It gets to every child," he said.

It was contrary to the advice of dentists but due to public sentiment that five years ago the Southern Downs Regional Council decided to discontinue fluoridating its water supply.

An SDRC spokeswoman said the council "has considered water fluoridation in the past and its position hasn't changed".V

Darling Downs Health principal dentist Dr Doug Gambrill said fluoridation had been shown to be an effective preventive measure, especially in the situation where it is difficult to access regular dental care.

"The National Health and Medical Research Council found that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 26 per cent to 44 per cent in children and adolescents, and by 27 per cent in adults," he said.

Dr Green said there was a misconstrued idea that baby teeth weren't important.

"They hold the face for adult teeth to come through. Their removal can lead to overcrowding or teeth not coming through in the right place and lead to expensive orthodontic work," she said.

Eating happily and speaking properly were other important outcomes from healthy baby teeth, she said.

"We have seen two year olds who have to go to hospital for extractions."

In 2010 the State Government launched the regional fluoride program in the Southern Downs and contracted companies Cardno and Beca to manage it.

"Fluoridation is a safe, effective and proven preventive against tooth decay and will become one of the State's most important investments in the future health of our children," then-Premier Anna Bligh said.

"It will reverse a trend that has resulted in Queensland kids having the worst teeth in the country and it will deliver dental health benefits to our future generations that other Australians have been enjoying for up to 40 years."

In 2012 the Queensland Government passed an Amendment Act which repealed the mandatory obligation to fluoridate a public potable water supply of 1000 or more people.

While 90 per cent of Australians had access to fluoridated water, in Queensland that figure has dropped to 76 per cent since 2012, Dr Green said.

Tooth decay is the most common disease in children and the most common reason for hospitalisation and surgery in children, Dr Green said.

"And it's completely preventable."

They said it was unfortunate that Councils could save tens of thousands of dollars by not adding fluoride to the water supply leaving state and federal governments and private individuals to pick up the bill when it came to treating tooth decay.

Fluoride is most effective in reducing tooth decay when it runs across the teeth such as through drinking fluoridated water or in toothpaste, Dr Green said.

"Scientific research shows it is very safe, very effective and very ethical. It gets to every child," he said.

It was contrary to the advice of dentists but due to public sentiment that five years ago the Southern Downs Regional Council decided to discontinue fluoridating its water supply.

A Council spokesperson this week said: "Council has considered water fluoridation in the past and its position hasn't changed".

Darling Downs Health principal dentist Dr Doug Gambrill said fluoridation of drinking water has been shown to be particularly beneficial in reducing dental decay in children and has been proven to be an effective preventive measure, especially in the situation where it is difficult to access regular dental care.

"The National Health and Medical Research Council found that water fluoridation reduces tooth decay by 26 per cent to 44 per cent in children and adolescents, and by 27 per cent in adults," he said.

Dr Green said at their Warwick practice they found tooth decay, particularly amongst children to be quite prevalent, with baby teeth quite affected.

People think they aren't but baby teeth are really important, Dr Green said.

"They hold the face for adult teeth to come through. Their removal can lead to overcrowding or teeth not coming through in the right place and lead to expensive orthodontic work," she said.

Eating happily and speaking properly were other important outcomes from healthy baby teeth, she said.

"We have seen two-year-olds who have to go to hospital for extractions."

And as far as they knew tooth extractions on children under general anaesthetics were not being performed at Warwick Hospital and there was a two-year waiting list to be seen at the hospital.

In 2010 the State Government launched the regional fluoride program in the Southern Downs and contracted companies Cardno and Beca to manage it.

"Fluoridation is a safe, effective and proven preventative against tooth decay and will become one of the State's most important investments in the future health of our children," then Premier Anna Bligh said.

"It will reverse a trend that has resulted in Queensland kids having the worst teeth in the country and it will deliver dental health benefits to our future generations that other Australians have been enjoying for up to 40 years."

In 2012 the Queensland Government passed an Amendment Act which repealed the mandatory obligation to fluoridate a public potable water supply of 1000 or more people. While 90 per cent of Australian's have access to fluoridated water in Queensland that figure has dropped to 76 per cent since 2012, Dr Green said.

Dentist Dr Bernie Tsang of Granite Belt Dental said the view that fluoride in the water was of benefit to both adults and children in the prevention of tooth decay was shared by dentists and supported by a body of research.