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Dental decay rampant in Calgary children, pediatric dentist says

Dentists and dental hygienists are seeing an increase in child tooth decay and Dr. Sarah Hulland says the decision to remove fluoride from Calgary's water supply three years ago is playing a big role.

Dentist says cavities in kids on the rise 3 years after Calgary stopped adding fluoride to drinking water

A child gets dental work on the Alex Dental Health Bus. Some critics believe children in Calgary are getting more cavities because the city stopped adding fluoride to the water three years ago. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Dentists and dental hygienists are seeing an increase in child tooth decay and Dr. Sarah Hulland says the decision to remove fluoride from Calgary's water supply three years ago is playing a big role.

“I'm seeing a lot more children having a lot more cavities,” she said. "I'm seeing a lot of decay on 19- to 20-month babies, and this is even before they've got all the teeth in."

A new study says tooth decay in children's baby teeth has increased since Calgary stopped adding flouride to its drinking water supply. (Alex Dental Health Bus)

Hulland said the system is getting stressed.

"We frequently have to put them to sleep to rehabilitate them. We don't have enough anaesthetists that actually help us to put them to sleep. We don't have enough OR time. We don't have enough manpower to actually do the care that needs to be given."

What used to be a one-month wait to see a pediatric dentist in Calgary is now at least three months, Hulland said.

Cavities are a common sight on the Alex Dental Health Bus, said Denise Kokaram who runs the program.

The bus visits schools around the city, helping children from families that can't always afford a trip to a dentist.

“These children are living in pain,” Kokaram said.

Calgary's medical health officer, Dr. Richard Musto, wants the city to have another discussion about adding fluoride to the city's drinking water. (Alex Dental Health Bus)

More than half of the children who get treated on the bus have tooth decay, she said.

“We see lower self-esteem with these kids, attention spans are affected. Loss of days at school."

Calgary's medical health officer Dr. Richard Musto is also concerned.

"I hope that we'll have a chance down the road to have another discussion with the city about re-introducing it,” he said.

That could happen in the spring, when a study looking at Calgary's tooth decay rates is complete.

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