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Fluoridating water would improve dental health care in Queensland

10 January, 2007

Fluoridating water would help reverse a concerning trend of bad tooth decay among Queenslanders, according to Health Minister Stephen Robertson.

Robertson said he hoped 2007 would see more local governments consider the State Government's offer to fully subsidise the capital costs of fluoridating their local water supplies.

The Health of Queenslanders Report 2006 showed tooth decay in Australian children is significantly higher than the national average with more than 50 percent of children suffering from tooth decay.

"In fact, tooth decay is the single most common childhood illness.

"One of the exceptions is in Townsville, where children have 45 per cent less tooth decay than children in Brisbane because of access to fluoridated water.

"That is a telling statement about the benefits of fluoridation. Townsville fluoridated its water supply in 1964.

"Fluoridated water is also present in the communities of Mareeba, Moranbah, Dalby and Bamaga."

Robertson said currently less than five per cent of Queenslanders had access to fluoridated water.

"There are many myths about fluoride and the argument can become very emotive," he said.

"But there is overwhelming scientific evidence and support from distinguished groups such as the World Health Organisation who overwhelmingly favour fluoridating water."

The State Government currently offers financial rebates to councils wanting to fluoridate local water supplies. The rebate program, worth a total of $6 million, covers 100 per cent of the capital cost.

Robertson urged people to make up their own minds and look at the evidence presented by leading health organisations such as the Australian Dental Association and the World Health Organisation.

"New South Wales is 90 per cent fluoridated, Western Australia is 86 per cent covered, ACT 100 per cent, Northern Territory 70 per cent, South Australia 80 per cent and Tasmania has 91 per cent access," he said.

"Many places here and overseas have had access to fluoridated water for between 20 and 50 years.

"Fluoride toothpaste and even tablets are no substitute for fluoridated water and Queensland's poor oral health is evidence of that."

Robertson said Victoria has saved about $1 billion dollars in the last 25 years through fluoridated water supplies.

"The savings result from avoided dental costs and saved work and leisure time," he said.

"Queensland continues to provide the largest and most comprehensive public dental service in Australia for adults and school-aged children.

"Queensland and NSW are the only states that don't demand a co-payment by patients for public dental services.

"In 2006-07, the State Government will spend $137.7 million to provide free public dental services for Queenslanders. This is an increase on the $132.4 million spent during 2005-06.

"During 2005-06, approximately 555,000 occasions of service were provided to adult dental patients in Queensland at a cost of $90.5 million.

"Approximately 640,000 occasions of service were provided to Queensland children through School Oral Health Services at a cost of $41.9 million."