By Deborah Condon
A group of over 100 dentists has severely criticised Health Minister Mary Harney for failing to deal with 'the near epidemic levels of dental fluorosis' among Irish children.
Dental fluorosis is damage to the enamel of the teeth. It is caused by drinking water with a high fluorine content during the time when teeth are forming. According to Irish Dentists Opposing Fluoridation (IDOF), levels of fluorosis have 'sky rocketed' here.
Figures contained in the 2002 North/South Oral Health Survey showed that the Republic of Ireland, where water has been fluoridated since the 1960s, had three times more fluorosis than Northern Ireland, where water is not fluoridated.
That survey was carried out as part of the Forum on Fluoridation, which was set up in 2000 by then-Health Minister Micheal Martin, to examine the contentious issue of fluoridation. The report of that forum, published in 2002, stated that the practice of adding fluoride to the public water supply should continue. However it added that the levels of fluoride should be reduced.
"The forum was supposed to turn down the fluoride taps but nothing has happened. Minister Martin did nothing. Minister Harney has done nothing meanwhile fluorosis in our children's teeth is at near epidemic levels", said Dr Don MacAuley, IDOF chairman.
Dr MacAuley added that this is a 'compensation time bomb', but that the government is 'playing a delaying game'.
"How many more children need to be damaged by fluoride before they put an end to the unsafe, unethical and outdated practice of water fluoridation?", he asked.