Tooth decay has decreased in New Plymouth since fluoridation ceased in late 2011, and at the much same rate as still-fluoridated Stratford and Hawera. This is according to the official data obtained from the (former) Taranaki DHB.
This is consistent with other communities that have ceased fluoridation, such as Timaru, Ashburton and Tauranga.
For 5-year olds the percentage of decay-free children rose from 56.2% in 2011 to 63.0% in 2015. The average number of decayed missing or filled teeth (dmft) decreased from around 2 to 1.44 – a massive 28% improvement. Both these measures had remained statistically static from 2009 through 2012, while New Plymouth was fluoridated.
Data also show that the improvement was essentially the same in both the fluoridated and unfluoridated parts of Taranaki.
Tooth decay as dmft dropped 30% from 2012 to 2015 in unfluoridated children, about 62% of those children living in New Plymouth.
Detailed data show that the percentage of children with very high levels of decay (7 or more dmft), where one might expect extraction under general anaesthetic, is the same in 2016 as it was in 2012 (around 9.2%). Modelling suggests that the overall reduction in decay from 2012 to 2016 has most likely resulted from children with 1 – 6 dmft improving by about ½ a dmft (while those with the worst decay have not improved).
Official information has shown that tooth extractions under general anaesthetic occur mainly in fluoridated Hawera. Moreover, many of these are due to “baby bottle tooth decay”, which cannot be cured by any measure – it can only be prevented by educating parents.
After Scotland introduced Childsmile extractions on children under general anaesthetic reduced by half.
The question then becomes, since tooth decay has reduced significantly, why the increased need for dental work under general anaesthetic as recently reported by Taranaki dentist Mary Anne Costello? What is causing it? What population sector is it affecting? Because it is clear it has nothing to do with stopping fluoridation in New Plymouth.
The really big question of course is, since Health NZ cannot now honestly play the fluoridation card, what will it do to identify the real cause of the problem and find a way of actually helping these unfortunate, suffering children.
It is significant that the response to increasing levels of childhood tooth extraction in Northern Ireland has not been met with a religious cry for adding toxic fluoride waste to the water supply, but for a Childsmile-like programme. This type of long-term educational – benefit-for-life programme is exactly what we need in NZ – not unscientific ill-informed scaremongering, or wasting money and resources on a scientifically discredited water fluoridation policy.