Dentists across Tasmania are campaigning for a broader spectrum of fluoridation across the state in an attempt to beat back declining oral health standards.
As the trend for drinking bottled water rises, dentists are concerned that children aren’t receiving enough fluoride, which has lead to an increase in tooth decay.
However, drinking tap water in Tasmania may not be much help, TasWater reports that 36 towns across Tasmania do not have fluoridated water. Tasmanian adults are also shown to have the worst oral health Australia wide, probably due to the lack of fluoridation.
Associate professor of oral health from the University of Tasmania, Leonard Crocombe, shared details with the Mercury of the sad state of children’s tooth decay across Tasmania. From the age of six children’s decay had been in decline until the mid ‘90s, from then it has begun to rise at an alarming rate.
“I think this is partly because of more hidden sugars in the diet—but also linked to the consumption of bottled water,” said Crocombe. “Most bottled water does not contain fluoride.”
Though Tasmania is the only state that supplies fluoridated water to towns with a population as little as 1000, Tasmanians adults have significantly fewer teeth than mainlanders—with an average of only 21.
“Cost-effective water fluoridation options are now available for smaller communities. Tasmania should be proud of this but we cannot afford to ‘rest on our laurels’ with oral health being poor in rural areas,” Dr Crocombe said.
The Tasmania branch of the Australian Dental Association has put forward a submission that hopes to accord change and bring fluoridation to all the citizens of Tasmania. But sadly the statistics on Tasmanian oral health are still dire.
“Tasmania is more decentralised, has an older population, lower socio-economic status, and a higher proportion of people eligible for public dental care than mainland Australia,” the submission said.
“The prevalence and recurrences of these impacts constitutes a silent epidemic. Dental caries is the second most costly diet-related disease in Australia, with an economic impact comparable with that of heart disease and diabetes.”