to keep fluoride in water
is a key part of overall health, so this
measure improves overall health in the
community,” says Dr. Richard Musto,
Medical Officer of Health, AHS.
Water fluoridation has been used across
Canada since the 1940s. And until Calgary
quit adding it, 75 per cent of Albertans
had fluoride in their drinking water.
Dozens of Canadian and international
studies agree that, when used at approved
levels, fluoridated water has no adverse
“The main risk with too much fluoride
is enamel fluorosis, typically slight whitish
lines on a tooth,” says Dr. Luke Shwart,
Dental Public Health Officer, AHS.
But, often fluoridated toothpaste is the
cause of fluorosis, not fluoridated water.
“Very often fluorosis can be prevented
by parents supervising toothpaste amount
and use by children.”
Shwart says children need only a very
small amount of toothpaste on their
brush, the size of a grain of rice or a pea,
depending on their age. They also need
to be taught to spit out their toothpaste
afterwards. In addition, families who
drink well water need to have it tested
for fluoride levels, so that they can avoid
using water with natural fluoride levels
that are too high.
Although often criticized as unsafe, for
fluoride to be fatal an adult would have to
consume more than some 15,000 litres of
fluoridated drinking water at once. More
than 90 professional health organizations
say consuming fluoride at recommended
levels in drinking water over a lifetime
poses virtually no risk.
For many people, the greater risk is not
having fluoride in their water.
“If fluoride is removed from the water
it becomes less available to people who
aren’t able to visit the dentist or pay for
fluoride treatments,” says Shwart.
A 2008 Statistics Canada study found
32 per cent of Canadians don’t have
dental insurance and 16 per cent don’t
visit a dentist regularly due to cost.
Both Shwart and Musto agree the
ongoing benefits of water fluoridation
definitely outweigh the faint risks.
— Keri lee
A debate over fluoride has
resurfaced in some Alberta municipalities,
opening the tap on arguments about
having the cavity-preventing element in
drinking water. Alberta Health Services,
Health Canada and the Canadian Dental
Association are urging communities to keep
fluoride in their water because it’s a safe,
cost-effective way to prevent oral disease.
In May, Calgary stopped adding
fluoride to its drinking water. Some other
municipalities have also considered
“We want communities to keep it in
because it helps prevent tooth decay
in adults and children. Oral health
health benefits far outweigh health risks
For more information on oral health, see
this story on applemag.ca.