teeth-xray-cbc

Communities that have ended water fluoridation have seen a rise in dental decay. ((CBC) )

New figures from the dental community are reviving the fluoride debate in the Montreal area.

The CLSC orlocal clinic in Dorval says the number of cavitiesin kindergarten children there has doubledin the past three years.

The tooth decay has become more common since 2003, whenthe West Island community stopped putting fluoride in its water.

Dr. Stéphane Schwartz, head of pediatric dentistry atMontreal Children's Hospital,says he's not surprised by the figures.

"Dorval stopped fluoridating the water without saying a word to anybody. Nobody was aware of it and all of a sudden we get all those children that have cavities that they shouldn't have," Schwartz said Thursday.

Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in water, soil, air and foods.

In the 1940s, an American dentist discovered that controlled doses of sodium fluoride in the water supply reduced cavities. Fluoride strengthens the outer layer of teeth, protecting them from decay.

Over-fluoridation can lead to fluorosis,a condition characterized by discolouration of tooth enamel. Dentists argue that it's more of a cosmetic problem than a health concern.

"If we put it back for the kids, we put it back for everybody. I think fluoride would be good for some people but not exactly for everybody," said Dr. Claire Deschamps, who has been practising dentistry in Dorval for 22 years.

Dr.Schwartz says fluoride is still the cheapest and most effective way to prevent cavities.

Many governments and health organizations, including the Canadian Dental Association, Health Canada, the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization, endorse fluoridation of drinking water to prevent tooth decay.

Fluoride is considered safe in water supplies at one part per million, but manymay receive beyond that amount. Fluoride can be found in everyday consumer products such as baby formulas, mouthwash, toothpaste and processed foods.