$12 million to fluoridate more drinking water

  • Jonathan Coleman
  • Peter Dunne

Budget 2017 has committed $12 million over four years to fund the infrastructure needed to fluoridate more drinking water, say Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne.

“While New Zealand’s oral health has improved dramatically over the last 30 years, we still have high rates of preventable tooth decay,” says Dr Coleman.

“Public drinking water currently supplies about 85 per cent of the population. Of those on public water supplies, 54 per cent receive fluoridated water.

“Increasing access to fluoridated water will improve oral health and mean fewer costly trips to the dentist. We know that children have up to 40 per cent less tooth decay in fluoridated areas compared to areas without fluoride.

“This change would benefit over 1.4 million New Zealanders who live in areas where networked community water supplies are not currently fluoridated.”

“Budget 2017 funding commitment will support the implementation of legalisation currently before the House,” says Mr Dunne.

“The Health (Fluoridation of Drinking Water) Amendment Bill recognises that water fluoridation is a health-related issue and moves the decision-making process from local councils to DHBs.

“The funding will help cover the infrastructure costs if an area does not currently fluoridate its water, but is directed by a DHB to do so.

“Decisions would be based on the assessment of health-related evidence and local needs. Recognition that fluoridating water is the single-most important initiative to improve dental health, particularly child dental health, is long overdue and I’m sure this move will be welcomed by the wider community.”

The Bill is currently awaiting its second reading. Once passed, DHBs are expected to start making decisions about water fluoridation in 2018.

Notes to editors:

Around 2.3 million New Zealanders currently have access to fluoridated water.

Fluoride occurs naturally in water supplies, however New Zealand levels are generally low compared to other countries, meaning additional fluoridation is needed to generate optimum health results. The World Health Organization recommends boosting fluoride to optimum levels.

In 2014 the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor and the Royal Society of New Zealand, assisted by a panel of experts, concluded there is compelling evidence that fluoridation of water at the recommended levels produces broad benefits for the dental health of New Zealanders.

A recent report by Sapere Research Group found New Zealanders living in fluoridated drinking-water areas had:

  • 40 per cent lower lifetime incidence of tooth decay among children and adolescents;
  • 48 per cent reduction in hospital admissions for the treatment of tooth decay among children aged 0 to 4 years;
  • 21 per cent reduction in tooth decay among adults aged 18 to 44 years;
  • 30 per cent reduction in tooth decay among adults aged 45 years and over.