Saskatchewan

Regina city council to debate adding fluoride to drinking water 

Almost all of the councillors elected in 2020 support adding fluoride to the water.

Almost all councillors elected in 2020 support adding fluoride to the water

The debate about whether or not to add fluoride to Regina's drinking water is going back before Regina city council. (Shutterstock)

Regina city council is once again set to discuss adding fluoride to the city's drinking water. It has been an ongoing topic in the city and was last formally discussed in 2016

On Wednesday, Councillors Bob Hawkins, Cheryl Stadnichuk, Andrew Stevens, Lori Bresciani, John Findura, Dan LeBlanc, Terina Shaw, Shannon Zachidniak, Jason Mancinelli and Mayor Sandra Masters are going to bring forward a notice of motion about adding fluoride to the water. 

This gives the city notice that this will be discussed and debated at the next city council meeting on August 11. 

"The most cost effective method that really doesn't need any kind of compliance by the population is putting it in community water systems because people have to drink water," said Gerry Uswak, former dean and associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan college of dentistry. 

Uswak is also the referral consultant dentist for the Saskatchewan Health Authority. He said that despite new treatments in dentistry, the most effective way to prevent diseases, reduce decay, and strengthen and repair tooth enamel is fluoride in community water supplies. 

"Incorporating fluoride into the enamel of the teeth actually makes it more resistant to the bacterial acid that bacteria, the process, the refined and added sugars that we eat in our diet," Uswak said. 

Fluoride has been added to drinking water since the late 1940s, when it started being used in New York State and Ontario, Uswak said. Early results in those communities showed a dramatic decrease in decay over non-fluoridated communities. 

Children, low income households and the elderly can benefit the most from fluoride in water, Gerry Uswak said. (Alex Dental Health Bus)

It's especially important in low-income communities where people may face barriers in accessing dental care, Uswak said. People who are poor, uninsured or elderly benefit the most. 

There is misinformation about water fluoridation, Uswak said. Despite what some people may claim, there's no evidence that adding fluoride to water is harmful, even after decades, he said. 

Uswak said there have been annual examinations in communities that have been doing water fluoridation for decades and they have found no negative effects. Expert panels that have studied water fluoridation have also found no adverse effects, he said. 

"I can only go by the evidence of experts … and we still believe that fluoride is safe," he said. "We continue to monitor the safety of fluoride in the water." 

For example, Canada has changed the amount recommended in water from one part per million to 0.7 parts per million to account for other ways people get fluoride, such as toothpaste and natural water systems. 

There can be adverse effects if people have too much fluoride, but it would have to be multiple times more than what's in drinking water. 

"There are all kinds of reports that have come out over the years that it's related to cancer — that's been debunked — and that it's related to an increased incidence of other outcomes, premature births, birth defects — that was disproved," he said.

"At about the cost of a dollar per person per year, it's the most affordable, best bang for the buck preventive agent we have for dental cavities."

now