Fluoride has stopped flowing through the taps in another northern Ontario town after Kirkland Lake council voted Tuesday to cut the chemical out of its drinking water.
And much like in Greater Sudbury, which may consider the same move, the debate is not just about health — it's also about money.
An equipment breakdown at Kirkland Lake's water treatment plant left council to consider a $360,000 repair bill.
· What is fluoride? Fluoride is a mineral found in soil, water (both fresh and salt) and various foods.
· How does fluoride prevent tooth decay? Fluoride has a positive effect on oral health by making teeth more resistant to decay. Fluoride can also prevent or even reverse tooth decay that has started.
· Where do I get the fluoride that prevents tooth decay? For many Canadians, fluoride is in public drinking water, which provides protection to the entire community. Fluoride toothpastes and rinses are available for purchase, and dentists can provide fluoride products.
Source: Canadian Dental Association
Mayor Bill Enouy said that's what prompted his council's decision, but said he also questions the health necessity of fluoride.
"I wouldn't vote for it or against it, based on money," he said. "If it was a safety factor and it needed to be done, we would do it."
Enouy also said people can purchase toothpastes, mouthwashes and tablets containing fluoride.
In Sudbury, Mayor Marianne Matichuk has been pushing for a public fluoride debate — maybe even in a referendum — and said she's getting some support from council.
On top of the unclear science on fluoride, she said $100,000 tax dollars every year, plus millions in maintenance in the years to come, can't be ignored.
"There is a cost," she said. "So you have to factor that in too."
Rick Caldwell said he doesn't think so. The Temiskaming Shores dentist and the incoming president of the Ontario Dental Association said he "understands that some people want to make this about the money, but this is about the well-being of the community."
Caldwell noted saving a few tax dollars on fluoride, up front, will cost the health system millions in the years to come.
At his dental office, he said he can tell which patients have grown up on fluoridated water.
"I certainly do see a difference in the amount of decay that those people from the outlying areas have, compared to people living in New Liskeard," he said. "There is a difference."
Many cities and towns in Ontario's northeast do not add fluoride to the drinking water, including Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie.