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28 December 2005


Visit Mudgee, a town in NSW where the state government has decided to add fluoride to drinking water.

SPEAKER1: There's no proof that it's working.

SPEAKER 2: Greens - you get enough fluoride out of your green vegetables.

DR SIVANESWARAN: The long-term benefits of water fluoridation have been exhaustively researched.

FELICITY OGILVIE: This is the water Mudgee drinks - cool, clear and unfluoridated. And this is the woman who came to town to try and convince locals that they should have fluoride in their water - for their teeth's sake.

DENTIST: Eating lollies and drinking soft drinks provides substrate bacteria which are in all our mouths and they produce acid and it's the acid attack on teeth that is the dental caries. The fluoride makes the enamel on our teeth more resistant to this acid attack.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Fluoride was first put into the Sydney water supply in the late '60s. Children in the city now have better teeth than those in country towns without water fluoridation. NSW Health is so keen on improving decay rates in the country that it's now offering to pay for the installation of fluoridation equipment. Previously it gave a 50% subsidy.
Dr Sivaneswaran has been invited to speak about fluoridation at the Mudgee town forum. It's a chance for locals to hear the Health Department's views on fluoridation and debate the issue before the local council decides whether or not to fluoridate the water.
If fluoride is added to the Mudgee water supply it will go in here at the local water treatment plant.
Those against fluoridation worry that it could cause brittle bones in the elderly, arthritis, mottled teeth and even brain damage.

SPEAKER: I'm against it because of the complete mass medication of an entire town when I don't believe it's necessary. There's other methods for people getting fluoride - they can use fluoride toothpaste or fluoride tablets. I'm not against them taking it, but I'm opposed to them medicating me at the same time.

DR SIVANESWARAN: The Therapeutic Goods Administration doesn't classify fluoridated water as a medication because the amount of fluoride added to water supplies is one part per million. That's one part per million of fluoride in water compared to 1,000 parts per million in fluoridated toothpaste. So basically, fluoride is a chemical and for chemicals we don't really need to have informed consent because that has been practiced in other areas.
For example, we add iodine to table salt to prevent goitre and mental retardation. We add folic acid to rice and bread and cereal to prevent birth defects and we add chlorine to water to prevent water-borne infection.

FELICITY OGILVIE: Chemical or medication - the Spice family don't want it.

MR/MRS SPICE: I feel that if people really do need fluoride, they should go to a doctor, a medical practitioner and find out how much they need and take it in tablet form.

FELICITY OGILVIE: But that argument seems to work both ways.

DR SIVANESWARAN: People do have a choice. They can drink tank water or bottled water. Bottled water does not have high levels of fluoride in it and there are some filters that take fluoride out of the water.

FELICITY OGILVIE: 58 regional councils have yet to decide whether water fluoridation is the key to fighting dental decay or a dangerous form of mass medication.

story notes

Fluoride is a chemical compound that is added to water, toothpaste and mouthwash because it helps to keep teeth healthy.

Fluoridation is the process of adding fluoride to water.

Exhaustively means completely and carefully.

Mudgee is a town in central eastern NSW.

Notice that the possessive apostrophe is used before the 's' with irregular plurals such as teeth. Follow the link to find out more.
more information: possessive apostrophe

In Australia, lollies are candy or sweets.

 soft drinks
Soft drinks are soda or pop - bubbly, sweet drinks.

The word substrate refers to the surface on which an organism grows.

 dental caries
Caries refers to decay. Dental caries is tooth decay or holes in teeth. They’re also called dental cavities.
Notice that the adjective dental means relating to teeth.

Enamel is the hard coating on teeth that covers and protects your teeth.

Notice that the plural of tooth is not tooths, but teeth. Follow the link to find out about other irregular plurals.
more information: irregular plurals

Fluoridate is the verb form of the noun fluoride.

Brittle bones are bones that break easily.

 mottled teeth
Mottled teeth are teeth marked with dark spots.

 iodine to table salt
We add iodine to table salt

 folic acid to rice and bread and cereal
We add folic acid to rice, bread and cereal.

 chlorine to water
We add chlorine to water.

 tank water
Tank water is water from a rainwater tank.

 bottled water
water sold in bottles

There are also water filters that take some fluoride out of the water.