The Hamilton City Council's leaflet to ratepayers about its
decision to ban fluoride in their town water supply gives oral
health information that is wrong, unscientific and misleading to
Hamilton people, leading NZ dental authorities say.
Dr Jonathan Broadbent, a public health dentistry specialist and
researcher from the University of Otago's Faculty of Dentistry -
New Zealand's only dental training school - says the largely
inaccurate oral health care advice given out by the Hamilton City
Council (HCC) in its recently-released leaflet should be corrected
and residents should be advised to disregard it.
The leaflet appeared to have been over-simplified to the point
where it did not reflect true and accepted public health advice, or
the changed circumstance of Hamilton water now being "fluoride
"I suggest they have a public communication problem on their
hands and need to act quickly to put the correct information out
there; or seek help from those that really are in the business of
producing health advice that the public can rely on," he says.
The New Zealand Dental Association says the Council made a poor
decision when it removed the health benefit of water
"It is not an authority on dental public health and is giving
advice well outside its remit as a civic authority," says Dr Geoff
Lingard, President of the Dental Association.
Dr Broadbent says the leaflet is incorrect on several important
public health fronts. It was wrong to indicate, as the one-page
leaflet did, that low-fluoride toothpaste was best for children's
teeth when the New Zealand Guidelines for the Use of Fluorides
state that "toothpaste of at least 1000 parts per million is
recommended for all ages." That measurement reflected standard
fluoride toothpaste, not low fluoride toothpaste.
The HCC leaflet also suggested a "pea-sized" amount of
toothpaste be used for all ages, and did not clarify that, as the
NZ guidelines suggest "a smear of fluoride toothpaste is
recommended until five years of age. From age 6 years, a pea-sized
amount can be used."
"For children aged under 6 years living in fluoridated areas who
are at low risk of tooth decay, fluoride toothpaste less than 1000
parts per million may be used if parents wish, but contrary to what
was suggested in the leaflet, parents in Hamilton shouldn't be
encouraged to use low fluoride toothpaste for their children
whatever the age, since Hamilton is now un-fluoridated, says Dr
"When Hamilton was fluoridated, parents could have chosen to do
so, but it isn't recommended now. Families should purchase
toothpastes that contain at least 1000 ppm fluoride and avoid those
labelled 'fluoride free', 'child strength' or 'low fluoride'," he
The HCC leaflet's claim that "applications by means that
directly affect the tooth surface are more effective than
fluoridation" is also misleading.
"This is misleading because fluoridated water also acts on the
tooth surfaces by direct topical action. Each time we eat food and
drinks prepared with fluoridated water, fluoride concentrations in
the mouth remain elevated, so the teeth benefit both during and
after eating. Water fluoridation works," he says.
Dr Broadbent says it is also concerning to see HCC provide a
link to their own webpage regarding a health issue, rather than to
the webpage of a health authority.
For more information on fluoride, people should be directed to
the NZ Dental Association's 'Healthy Smiles' website (www.healthysmiles.org.nz/default,283,fluoride.sm),
the Ministry of Health's statements on fluoride (www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/water-fluoridation
or to the website of the National Fluoridation Information Service
Dr Lingard believes the HCC should not be directing Hamiltonians
to their own webpage for information. Many of the tribunal
submissions available on their site contain "seriously erroneous"