Answering common questions

What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral - it is found in air, soil, plants, water and lots of foods.

How does fluoride help our teeth – especially in children?

A recent national study showed children in fluoridated areas had 40 per cent less tooth decay than those in non-fluoridated areas and adults had
five per cent (due to an editing error, we previously reported 71 per cent. This was wrong and we apologise) less tooth decay than those in non-fluoridated areas.

Why do we need to add it to our drinking water?

Because New Zealand water supplies have very low levels of natural fluoride. In many local bodies of water there is not enough fluoride to do the job of protecting teeth. 
Water fluoridation (adding fluoride to water supplies) tops up the fluoride to the best levels that provide protection against tooth decay.

Is it safe?

Yes. Scientific studies over 60 years have found water fluoridation to be very safe. 
It is supported by many international and local organisations including World Health Organisation, World Dental Federation, New Zealand Ministry of Health, NZ Maori Dental Association (Te Ao Marama), NZ Cancer Society, Plunket and many more.

Why do we need it, when toothpaste already has fluoride and we clean our teeth twice a day?

The 2009 New Zealand Oral Health Survey found that only 65 per cent of New Zealand adults and 15 per cent of preschoolers brush their teeth twice a day with regular strength fluoride toothpaste. 
So putting fluoride in water supply makes sure everyone is covered and given some protection.
Fluoride in water does not replace using toothpaste and good teeth cleaning habits. They work together to provide the best protection for teeth. 
The levels of fluoride if you use toothpaste and fluoride in water are still well within the recommended fluoride limits.

Does it work?

Yes, survey results also showed that children and adults living in fluoridated areas have much less tooth decay over their lifetimes than those in un-fluoridated areas. 
Dentists and dental nurses will tell you the same thing.
Your teeth will be well protected, pain from dental decay will be rare, and costs of dental care much more affordable.

Read this endorsement from Thames dentist David Fornusek who has practiced in the area for more than 40 years [PDF, 50 KB]

Who benefits?

Water fluoridation benefits everyone who has their own teeth, from children to older people, especially those most at risk of tooth decay. 
Putting it in the public water supply means everyone gets the benefit, not just those who can afford it.
Children and those most at risk of tooth decay will benefit most. 
People who struggle to afford or practice regular dental care (regular dental check ups, using quality toothpaste, cleaning teeth twice a day) will also benefit by having fluoride protection in their drinking water.

Graph below: Number of filled teeth per child aged 5 years in fluoridated Hamilton and unfluoridated Morrinsville, September 2003 – Dec 2004 Waikato DHB SDS

Graph

Why do so many health professionals support community water fluoridation?

Click to hear it from health professionals(external link)

What about the right to choose?

Some people object to fluoride in water and use arguments that have been well and truly rebutted by sound scientific study and commonsense. 
However if these people wish to avoid the benefits of water fluoridation, then they can choose to buy osmosis filters or steam distillers which filter out fluoride from tap water (more details here(external link)) Or perhaps they could purchase types of bottled water that do not contain fluoride. 
Their beliefs should not prevent the rest of the community benefiting from this safe, preventative option for healthier teeth.

Who has water fluoridation currently?

Over 300 million people in 39 countries have access to fluoridated drinking water. 
These include Australia, Canada, Ireland, Israel, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 
Currently in New Zealand 68 per cent of the population on reticulated water have the benefits of fluoridation. 
That equates to 56 per cent of the total population (i.e. those on reticulated water, plus those on tank/bore/rainwater)