The Windsor Essex County Health Unit said it had no Plan B "etched in stone" in the event council voted to stop adding fluoride to Windsor’s drinking water, which it did Monday.
Instead, the unit is now weighing three options, all of which it says are more expensive than adding fluoride to drinking water.
The first and least expensive option is a mail-out to residents. It will cost $2.8 million annually to mail a toothbrush and toothpaste to residents every three months, said Dr. Gary Kirk, associate medical officer of health and CEO of the health unit.
Other options include applying fluoride varnish to residents’ teeth every three months at the health unit’s offices at a cost of $5.7 million annually; or doing the same at private dental practices at a cost of $11.7 million each year.
The health unit has not made a decision on any option, yet.
The City of Windsor spent $125,000 each year adding fluoride to the drinking water supply. That money will now be spent on dental education and prevention. It’s not enough according to the health unit.
"We’re going to need more resources; more people, more hygienists," said Rosemary Arsenault, manager of dental services at the health unit. "We’re going to have to increase our dental education, which also includes oral hygiene instruction and nutrition counselling on how to avoid foods that cause bacteria in our mouth to grow."
Several communities, such as Kingsville and Leamington in Essex County, do not add fluoride their drinking water. Arsenault said programs at the health unit offices in those locations are in place to offset that.
"We deliver more service to more children in the county because they don’t deliver fluoride through water," Arsenault said.
Children are eligible if fluoride is not delivered their municipal drinking water and if they meet a financial requirement.
"Hundreds of children who were not eligible for fluoride treatment in Windsor are now eligible for treatment if they meet financial requirements," Arsenault said. "We have to look out for everyone’s teeth, especially the priority population that doesn’t have access to care."
She said council’s decision will spawn "generations" of people "with softer enamel and a greater risk of tooth decay."
"That’s what science shows us," Arsenault said.