Saint John city council is scheduled to vote Monday evening on whether to end the practice of adding fluoride to the city’s drinking water.
The move is being urged by city administrators, who recommend terminating a fluoridation program they call inefficient.
Several municipalities across the country have taken similar approaches. That includes Moncton, where in 2011 city councillors voted to stop adding fluoride to the water.
But the proposal for Saint John to do the same conflicts with the advice of local dentists. Jeff Clark, with the New Brunswick Dental Society, says adding fluoride to the water is good for dental health, especially in children.
“In the tooth formation years, the fluoride is incorporated into the enamel of the teeth,” he said. “It essentially makes them stronger and resistant to tooth decay.”
But adding fluoride costs money — $177,000 a year in Saint John. And city staff say less than one per cent of the municipality's water is actually consumed by people.
"Based solely on the program inefficiency, staff recommend that council discontinue the fluoridation process when current supply is exhausted," a city report says.
Critics of water fluoridation say it can cause fluorosis — a white mottling of the teeth, or a weakening of bones. They also say it forces the population to take a form of medication.
But health officials continue to be in favour. Dr. Scott Giffin, the south region’s medical officer of health, says scientific studies support fluoridation.
Adverse effects are extremely rare, he said, and the head of radiology at the Saint John Regional Hospital has never seen a single case of fluorosis of the bones.