Fluoridation to end this summer

Okotoks: Council approved program to prevent tooth decay

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 05:58 pm

Okotoks resident Christine Cameron fills a jug with water from a special filter in her home. She is happy town council voted to remove fluoride from drinking water.
Okotoks resident Christine Cameron fills a jug with water from a special filter in her home. She is happy town council voted to remove fluoride from drinking water.
Don Patterson/OWW

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Okotoks’ drinking water will be free of fluoride sometime this summer.

Town council voted 6-1 in favour of a bylaw to remove fluoride from water in town last week, while also deciding to work with Alberta Health Services to create a program to help prevent tooth decay for those most at risk in the community.

Coun. Florence Christophers, who first proposed ending fluoridation in Okotoks earlier this year, is happy with council’s decision.

“I’m excited and confident in the go forward strategy of Okotoks in partnership with AHS and I fully expect that oral health outcomes in our community will improve in years to come,” she said.

After last week’s vote, the Town must now notify Alberta Environment of its decision and it will take around two months before fluoridation ends.

Council also voted unanimously to use the $8,000 each year spent on adding fluoride to drinking water on a program to fight cavities in the community.

Christophers said the financial support from the Town and participation of Alberta Health Services should help its success.

She said there’s more to preventing cavities than adding fluoride to water, including diet, regular dental check ups and prevention education is also important.

“It’s not just a matter of brushing your teeth,” said Christophers. “We know that 80 per cent of cavities that happen even in families where they floss, they brush their teeth twice a day and they visit a dentist regularly.”

Mayor Bill Robertson cast the lone vote against removing fluoride from water in town. He continues to support fluoridation as a way to help protect people in the community most at risk of tooth decay.

“I still believe that the overall benefits to the community regarding fluoride outweigh the detriments,” he said.

Robertson supported the dental health plan. He said it would mitigate the impact of removing fluoride from the Town’s drinking water.

The Town will work with health authorities and the Healthy Family Resource Centre and will provide funding for a part-time person to provide preventative support for children and others at risk of tooth decay. The program will also involve educational components to raise awareness about how to protect and improve dental health. The Town will also ask Okotoks be included in an AHS study of dental decay in Calgary. A review of the program will be done in three years with the results to be brought back to town council at the time.

A timeframe for roll-out of the program hasn’t been determined yet.

Debbie Posey, Family and Community Support Services team leader, expects the Town will meet with officials from other agencies to draw up details this year and have something in place around the end of the year.

She said the Town hopes to leverage the $8,000 in annual funding by working with Alberta Health Services and some of the services it provides for at risk residents.

“If that provides two days a month where one day is for education and another day is for a topical varnish for more at-risk people, which we know is effective, then that will be something that works really well,” said Posey.

If the Town is accepted in the AHS cavity study, she said the funds could potentially cover any cost to the Town for participating.

“There shouldn’t be a huge cost for a program analysis if we continue to work with Alberta Health Services,” said Posey.

She said studies of other communities that withdrew fluoride from drinking water show a potential for a three per cent increase in cavities after fluoride has been removed from a community’s drinking water.

Posey said the review will help the Town know how effective the program has been and whether any changes will be needed.

“I think in three years we’ll know, is this really successful and if it’s made a difference in the community, or are we finding if it’s really not something that’s sustainable,” she said.

Opponents of fluoridation in town are happy with the decision.

Okotoks resident Christine Cameron is happy council finally voted to eliminate fluoride.

She doesn’t like that the Town now has to wait to remove fluoride, despite council’s approval. She aid it should be entirely up to the Town.

“I just don’t understand why it’s such a slow process,” she said.

Cameron said the Town should be focusing on education about dental health with the program.

“I think that’s where the answer lies, is in educating parents,” she said. “I hope they’re conscientious enough to use the suggestions that are given to them.”


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