Sydney Dental School professor studies impact of fluoride

As Canadians, we are used to having fluoride added to our drinking water (unless you live in Nunavut or the Yukon). Brantford, Ontario became the first city in Canada to fluoridate its water supplies in 1945. In Australia, fluoridated water is provided for approximately 70 percent of the population in all states and territories.

Professor Wendell Evans is the head of community oral health and epidemiology at the University of Sydney Dental School and is Australia’s leading expert on fluoride. As a young Australian dentist, Evans spent a year peering into the mouths of 1,500 5-year-old children, and in this way began his 38-year career studying the benefits of fluoride.

Sydney Dental School
A Sydney Dental School student

The year-long project in 1975 was part of a study on the impact of fluoridation of the water supply on children in his native New Zealand. ”It was a very clear result,” he says. “The children who were born and bred in the fluoridated NZ town of Dunedin had half the decay of those in areas without fluoridated water.”

Before fluoridation, the University of Sydney professor said, the average 12-year-old Sydney or New Zealand child had more than nine teeth that were rotten, decayed, filled or extracted. The addition of fluoride in the water supply and fluoride toothpaste has cut the rate in half.

Today, as much as 60 percent of the adult population have no tooth decay at all, and Prof. Evans stated that as many as 70 percent of university students don’t have any cavities!

According to the Sydney Dental School professor, if Australian towns voted to stop or not proceed with fluoridation, there would be increased levels of tooth decay.

Most recently, the Sydney Dental School professor has been working on a program to put fluoride sealant on the first molars of children in Cambodia, and he says that children in Cambodia have many cavities and broken teeth, like children in Australia and in New Zealand used to have before fluoride was added to the public water supply.

Evans says he has seen New South Wales children with teeth similar to the children in Cambodia. When he sees children drinking juice and soda, without the protective properties of fluoride, he admits it is “just frightful.” While he acknowledges cavities happen everywhere, he says it is most prevalent in non-fluoridated areas.

The study finds that fluoride also helps to protect older people as well as young, as it improves the oral health of Australians by approximately 50 percent.

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