Community water fluoridation is safe, effective, and protects

October 13, 2021

CALGARY – On Monday, Oct. 18, Calgarians will have the opportunity to vote on whether to restore fluoride to the city's drinking water.

While there is already some naturally occurring fluoride in Calgary’s water, restoring community water fluoridation would adjust the level to what is recommended by Health Canada for preventing tooth decay.

As in other Canadian provinces, tooth decay is a common chronic health condition, impacting wellbeing and quality of life among children and adults in Alberta.

Data from the last 10 years shows an average of 37,000 dental visits to Alberta emergency departments (ED) per year for dental problems. This includes more than 12,000 visits to Calgary-area EDs in 2019 alone. With the cost of an ED visit between $150 and $225, the annual cost is upwards of $2 million for Calgary Zone.

Dental treatment is not accessible to all Albertans. Community water fluoridation effectively helps prevent tooth decay, especially among the most vulnerable. Fluoridated tap water is accessible to everyone connected to the municipal water supply, regardless of age, socioeconomic status, education, income, race or ethnicity.

AHS endorses community water fluoridation as a foundational public health measure to prevent tooth decay, improve oral health and reduce inequities within communities. It is also endorsed by more than 90 other professional health organizations including Health Canada, the Canadian Public Health Association, the Canadian Dental Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the World Health Organization.

The best scientific evidence available consistently shows that communities with optimal water fluoride levels have less tooth decay. Community water fluoridation is safe and effective.

We even have evidence close to home that shows us that children in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer cavities.

In May 2011 the City of Calgary stopped water fluoridation, which had been in place since 1991. This provided an opportunity to compare children’s caries (cavity) rates in Calgary to those in Edmonton, where the municipal water supply has been fluoridated since 1967.

More cavities were found in the baby teeth of children in Calgary compared to Edmonton, confirming that fluoride cessation in Calgary has had a negative impact on children’s oral health. This change occurred quickly, within three years of fluoride cessation.

This study also found that the magnitude of increase in number of cavities was greater in Calgary than in Edmonton, despite the indication of better access to dental treatment in Calgary.

Different people have different feelings and concerns about fluoride in tap water, and that’s OK, but we should all have the same information to make an informed decision. Current evidence does not support a link between exposure to fluoride in drinking water and any adverse health effects.

The best scientific evidence available here, and around the world, supports community water fluoridation as safe and effective in preventing tooth decay. Other than mild or very mild dental fluorosis, the recommended water fluoridation level (0.7mg/l) does not have other unwanted health outcomes.

Community water fluoridation is simple, safe, effective, and prevents tooth decay in all ages.
A decision to support community water fluoridation in Calgary would also have a positive impact on surrounding communities that receive city water, including Strathmore, Chestermere, parts of Tsuut’ina Nation, Airdrie and Spruce Meadows.

We encourage Calgarians to review the evidence-based information on ahs.ca/oralhealth and Together4Health. Check out our Fact or Fiction tool where you can ask any questions, or fact check any myths or rumours you may have seen or heard. You can also follow Alberta Health Services on Twitter, Facebook and join the conversation online using the hashtag #fluoridefacts.

Community water fluoridation is an important safe and effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay. Have your say Calgary, on October 18th.

Dr. Rafael Figueiredo
Provincial Dental Public Health Officer
Alberta Health Services

Dr. Nick Etches
Acting Zone Lead Medical Officer of Health, Calgary Zone
Alberta Health Services