I thought I would provide my thinking on the fluoridation issue that will be coming back to Parry Sound Council this week. My decision to weigh in on the issue follows a call I received this past weekend from a member of the anti-fluoridation group asking my position on the matter.

My reply was simple: I support the recommendation made by our regional health officer. As I explained, these are individuals who are educated, trained and employed to make these types of recommendations.

I do not intend to participate in what promises to be a combative discussion. There are some things that need to be considered as the debate begins (again):

  1. Confirmation bias. This is the natural behaviour of people to read and agree with arguments that support their beliefs and decisions, and to reject or ignore those that don’t. It’s like an enthusiastic Liberal or NDP supporter refusing to read or accept any article that casts the Conservatives in a positive light.
  2. Dentists are not necessarily unbiased. Dentists, and the dental profession, earn their living by repairing teeth. Much as a body shop repairs automobiles, and depends on accidents for new business, dentists depend in part on poor dental hygiene and dental caries to support their business. So dentists that reject fluoridation may well be looking out for their own self-interest. Presumably dentists who support fluoridation are not subject to the same bias.
  3. The “it doesn’t help me” bias. The greatest benefits of fluoridation will accrue to children who do not have the family resources to get regular dental care. That means I do not benefit from fluoridation but presumably still bear the risks that the anti-fluoride group suggests are associated with fluoridation.
  4. Minority rule. I suspect the anti-fluoride group will be far more active than the pro-fluoride or ‘it doesn’t matter’ group. It’s not unlike the separatist movement in Quebec. I believe the larger majority in Quebec accept and understand the benefits of being part of Canada. But it’s the separatists who get the headlines, host the rallies, and push the agenda. They have the right to express their opinion, but do they have the right to make the decisions?
  5. Huntsville is not the best model. Toronto and other major municipalities still fluoridate their water. Home to a diverse population, and less subject to being swayed by minority groups, these larger municipalities believe it is in the best interest of the public to continue fluoridation.
  6. It may be about the money. As was mentioned in Dr. Chirico’s deputation, the reason most smaller municipalities are rejecting fluoridation is not the medical evidence but rather the cost of fluoridation. That is more evident as we look at the cost of upgrading the Parry Sound facilities to more efficiently and safely apply fluoride to the water. And it’s the older, more established population who will carry the cost of fluoridation which will largely accrue to the benefit of the children. As a society we really don’t have many qualms about mortgaging the future of the younger generations for our current benefit, or to save a few bucks.
  7. Fluoridation is avoidable. Buy the bottled water from the grocery store or the Water Depot. You don’t consume that much and many people prefer the taste of water that has not been chlorinated.
  8. Expertise matters. Public health policy is not simple to formulate. There are advanced degrees offered in public health that provide the necessary education to properly understand the issues surrounding issues such as fluoridation and vaccination. Google U. is not a substitute for formal education.

I understand that people do not like the concept of ‘forced medication’ as implied by municipal water fluoridation. I think it is a valid and reasonable point of view. And it is one of many considerations that Council will need to weigh as they manage the discussion.

I think we should continue to fluoridate the water in accordance with current public health recommendations and improve the dental health of the young people in Parry Sound. But perhaps Parry Sound really is a community of ‘old folks’ and there is no real benefit to fluoridation, just an expense. Screw the kids!

Snoozing Under the Treetops in Parry Sound. (Parry Sound in Colour)