As the school year draws to an end, it is time to consider how
Calgary has been treating its children lately. In one respect, the
answer is not well at all.
Calgary city council decided in 2011 to cease adjusting the
fluoride levels in Calgary water. Three of us are dental
specialists, and can attest to the devastating consequences.
Consider, for example, Sammys case. On a Saturday, his mother
called a dental office reporting that the eight-year-old boy was
irritable, feverish and crying constantly. The mother wanted an
appointment for Monday morning, but we opened the office to see
him. He was not well. An infection in his tooth had crept upward to
his eye, such that his lower eyelid was closing.
This is a medical emergency. Once in the eye, a dental infection
can travel rapidly to the brain and, if untreated, cause death. One
of us went with his mother to Rockyview Hospital. Sammy was
immediately given intravenous antibiotics and admitted. The next
day, he was transferred to the Childrens Hospital for continued
Such systemic infections caused by dental infections are not
unusual these days. In fact, we have had to change how we practice
dentistry. When we had fluoridation, we would watch a small soft
spot or cavity; we would wait to see whether it grew before
drilling and filling. Now, we must pounce on the problem because,
in the six months until the next appointment, that small, soft spot
will likely become a huge hole in the tooth.
Consider another scenario. We now routinely see children whose
primary and permanent molars are already decayed and require
fillings as soon as the teeth erupt through the gums. When the
dental decay is too severe, the infected teeth must be extracted.
In very young children, such work must often be done under general
anesthetic, which bears its own risks for kids and can be a
horrible experience for the children and their parents.
Consequently, the child might need orthodontic care over a
seven- to nine-year period to recreate a bite and to maximize the
effectiveness of the remaining teeth. Prior to fluoridation
cessation, we saw children in this state almost always from
communities surrounding Calgary that did not have water
fluoridation. Sadly, now Calgary children are losing teeth they
will need throughout their adult lives.
Calgary children are not the only ones suffering. Adults need
fluoridation too, especially seniors.
Fluoride is a mineral and occurs naturally in Calgary drinking
water at 0.1 to 0.4 parts per million. It strengthens tooth
structure, prevents decay and even reverses some decay. To be
therapeutic, the fluoride level needs to be at 0.7 parts per
million. At this level, fluoride remains safe and