KFL&A Board of Health votes to support water fluoridation

The KFL&A Board of Health would like to see fluorosilicic acid (FSA) added to local water supplies to adjust the naturally occurring fluoride level. Kingstonist file photo.

After a presentation highlighting the critical increase in childhood tooth decay in the region, the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington (KFL&A) Board of Health voted to share survey results on community water fluoridation with Mayor Bryan Paterson and Kingston City Council and ask that Council resume its work on exploring the feasibility of community water fluoridation.

As Kingstonist readers may recall, in 2020, the city council of the time sought public input on the potential of water fluoridation, which was part of that council’s 2019 to 2022 Strategic Plan. At that time, Kingstonist ran a nonscientific poll, which found that 60 per cent of the 362 voters were not in favour of fluoridation (see below for our new poll).

At the February 28, 2024, meeting of the board, Public Health promoter Alison Bradshaw reminded members that KFL&A Public Health’s school dental screening results from last year showed that 40 per cent of children in senior kindergarten had experienced tooth decay — a 60 per cent increase since 2019.

“If left untreated,” Bradshaw said, “tooth decay leads to pain and infection and then impacts all aspects of a child’s life, including eating, sleeping, and the ability to attend school.”

Bradshaw reported that data from other regions showed that the local 60 per cent increase for children is higher “compared to neighbouring public health units, with Hastings-Prince Edward Public Health and Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit reporting increases of eight percent and 25 percent, respectively.” She further noted that Canadian data shows that at least 20 per cent of adults suffer from untreated tooth decay, which has the same detrimental impacts on health and well-being.

The board also heard that layers of prevention are essential to limit tooth decay. KFL&A Public Health promotes healthy individual habits (such as brushing and flossing teeth) through promotional campaigns, schools, and community events. But Bradshaw noted that “the highest individual effort [is put into] twice daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, eating healthy foods, and drinking water… It’s not to say that those things aren’t very important on an individual level; they’re extremely important.”

She also pointed to the sobering data in the recent ‘Cost of Eating Healthy’ report, which found that 16 per cent of households in the KFL&A area — about one in six — live with food insecurity. This has serious implications for all facets of life, not least of which is that households on low incomes are often forced to compromise healthy eating to pay for other expenses.

KFL&A Public Health devotes time to supporting dental care through school screening and fluoride varnish programs and by connecting people to other programs and services, including Healthy Smiles Ontario, the Ontario Seniors Dental Care Program, and the Dental Treatment Assistance Fund, according to Bradshaw, who noted that community water fluoridation is an additional measure of prevention that “does not require action by individuals and benefits everyone.”

However, she noted, municipal water in the KFL&A region does not have an optimal level of fluoride, which puts residents at higher risk of tooth decay.

Bradshaw stated that KFL&A Public Health supports community water fluoridation “as an equitable, population-based layer of prevention that is cost-effective [and] safe and reduces tooth decay by at least 25 per cent across all ages.” 

She presented the results of a public opinion survey conducted by phone in December 2023, with 400 randomly selected Kingston residents, to understand the current knowledge of and opinion about water fluoridation in our community. Results were weighted by gender, age, and household income to the population of Kingston. The survey findings showed that fewer than one quarter of respondents correctly identified that fluoride is not currently added to municipal water supply (24 per cent).

“Most indicated that they thought the water was already fluoridated or did not know,” Bradshaw reported.

Further, only 19 per cent were opposed to community water fluoridation, and she noted that these findings are largely unchanged from a 2016 survey, which used the same methodology. These consistent findings demonstrate stability in public opinion and confirm that the majority support community water fluoridation, Bradshaw explained.

According to the KFL&A Public Health website, fluorosilicic acid (FSA) is used to adjust the naturally occurring fluoride level in the water supply in many other communities.

“Most Ontarians do have access to community fluoridated water,” Bradshaw said, suggesting that Kingston residents are being left behind. Over 10 million residents of Ontario (73 per cent) have access to optimally fluoridated water, including residents of Belleville and Brockville, as well as Ottawa, London, Sudbury, Hamilton, Peterborough, Toronto, and Windsor. 

Bradshaw went on to say that the positive impact of community water fluoridation becomes clear when we study what happens if it is discontinued. She explained that in 2013, Windsor City Council voted to stop community water fluoridation. Five years later, she said, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported a 51 percent increase in tooth decay.

“Local dentists described treating more cavities in younger children, and more severe cavities,” Bradshaw explained.

As a result, Windsor City Council reversed its decision and voted to reintroduce water fluoridation in 2018. 

A similar situation occurred in Calgary, Alberta, when that city’s council voted to discontinue community water fluoridation in 2011, then reinstated it in 2021 after increases in tooth decay were reported.

After Bradshaw’s presentation, the Board of Health voted to support a staff recommendation to “share the community survey results on community water fluoridation with Mayor Bryan Paterson and… Kingston [City] Council and ask that City Council resume their work on exploring the feasibility of community water fluoridation, which was paused in March 2020, to reduce tooth decay for all Kingston residents through this equitable, population-based prevention measure.”


Have your say: yay or nay?

Photo by Brendan Church.

Kingstonist has closed the poll on water fluoridation from 2020, and opened a new poll on the matter. So, what do you think? Let us know in the poll below!

[poll id=”466″]

3 thoughts on “KFL&A Board of Health votes to support water fluoridation

  • Not fluoridating water is like not encouraging your kids to brush their teeth or not getting them vaccinated. There are always those 10-15% among us who won’t listen to KFLA Health.

  • How does ingesting fluoride help fight tooth decay? It should be painted on the teeth, as dentist do now. Don’t make the rest of us drink this poison – just make sure children are treated by the dentist.

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