Fluoride an issue of equality of dental care: Dr. Paul

Canada's Chief Dental Officer, Dr. Peter Cooney, and Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, made a presentation to city council Monday, April 25, 2016. The doctors were making the case to keep fluoridating the city's drinking water. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – The region’s top doctor zeroed in on the demographics of Cornwall as he made the case to continue fluoridation of the city’s drinking water.

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis was joined by Canada’s Chief Dental Officer, Dr. Peter Cooney, in making the case to continue putting fluoride in the city’s water system.

Showing a number of slides on the demographics, nearly 40 per cent of people in older age groups in Cornwall have dental carries, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said.

“Access to dental care is an issue…when we’re talking about equity…we believe there are benefits. We have seen issues in other communities that have stopped fluoridation,” the doctor said.

“We are seeing increasing trends in Cornwall…our dentists are seeing increasing instances of dental carries,” Dr. Roumeliotis said.

“You’re trying to even the playing field,” he said.

Dr. Roumeliotis added that “an already sicker population” in Cornwall, with higher rates of chronic diseases, is only compounded by the lack of dental care.

In an attempt to dismiss assertions from anti-fluoride activists of the toxic nature of fluoride, Canada’s Chief Dental Officer, Dr. Peter Cooney, said you would have to drink 15,000 liters of water at one sitting for it to be toxic.

“I can assure you, in terms of fluorosis, this is not a problem,” said Dr. Cooney, pointing to stats showing less than three tenths of one per cent (3 kids in 1,000) had moderate or severe effects. Those children were from China and India, the doctor stated.

Dr. Cooney also pointed to a Centers for Disease Control study showing $1 spent on fluoride saves about $38 in health care. “You are getting good bang for your buck,” he said.

“I hope that you will be as wise as you were back then (2013) and put it back in,” the country’s top dental doctor said.

“This is a win-win,” Dr. Cooney said.

The doctors faced pointed questions from Coun. David Murphy, a fluoride skeptic. He asked if it was so important, why wasn’t fluoride mandated.

Dr. Cooney felt that the responsibility should be left with municipal officials with the “right scientific data,” to the chuckle from anti-fluoride activists in the audience.

Coun. Justin Towndale suggested people didn’t have a choice when injesting fluoridated water. “You can pick up a filter at Costco…there are different mechanisms to remove it…they do have a choice,” Dr. Cooney answered.

Coun. Maurice Dupelle said the city probably “missed the boat” and should have put a referendum on the ballot in the last municipal election.

“The longer we wait, we’ll find out the hard way,” Dr. Paul Roumeliotis added.

Coun. Denis Carr said, as city councillors, “we rely on the experts” to suggest what we should be doing.

On a question from Clerk Helen Finn said the previous council had voted against taking fluoride out of the water. The issue of fluoridating water suddenly became part of the debate over what was originally a safety issue with the broken equipment.

Coun. Bernadette Clement suggested the people of lower income seemed to be more supportive of having fluoride in the water. She asked about whether to have a referendum.

Dr. Cooney suggested the councillors were elected to make the best decision for the people.

“For me to make an opinion…to make an informed decision will always be a struggle,” Mayor Leslie O’Shaughnessy said. The mayor suggested the community is split.

The mayor said, if a vote were held tonight, he would vote against fluoride in the water.

Up until the system broke in 2013, Cornwall had been fluoridating its water since 1962.

A decision on water fluoridation wasn’t made tonight but will come up for a vote at an upcoming meeting.

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