‘Conspiracy theorists' are said to have hijacked the debate, reports Harry Pearl .
Retiring health board chief executive Craig Climo has hit out at the "middle class conspiracy theorists" who are able to capture community leaders with their anti-fluoridation agenda.
Mr Climo, who resigned last year and leaves Waikato District Health Board before August, made the comments in front of more than 200 dentists from around Waikato at a conference in Hamilton yesterday.
Oral health - and fluoridation - were under the microscope at the "Big Day In", an annual educational day for dental professionals, held at Waiora Waikato Hospital Campus.
Mr Climo said that he had seen the personal toll that support of fluoridation and other health measures like vaccination could take on people working in the health sector.
"Fluoride is for the people who don't have the same opportunities they have, and we have to think about the benefit for the whole community."
He said he was happy that individuals had their own opinion, but that did not entitle them to their own science.
"They are middle class conspiracy theorists who seem able to capture our community decision makers," he said.
Mr Climo's comments found favour with the conferences keynote speaker, Murray Thomson, professor of dental epidemiology and public health at the University Otago.
Prof Thomson, who was born in Huntly and first started practising there, said he thought Mr Climo set out his views "eloquently".
He said there was a strong link between tooth decay and people's socio-economic status.
"It [fluoridation] lowers and reduces those socio-economic inequalities."
Prof Thomson spoke about the "unique" longitudinal study he is involved with.
The study periodically takes health and developmental data - including dental examinations - of 1037 children who were born at the Queen Mary Hospital in Dunedin, between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973.
He said the study has used assessments conducted at ages 15, 18, 21, 26, 32 and 38. "It has shown quite closely that tooth decay continues at the same rate throughout life.
"Also that incremental tooth loss starts really early - at the end of teenage years."
The Big Day In event was started by Waikato DHB principal dental officer Dr Rob Aitken in 2008.
Dr Aitken said there was much to celebrate in dentistry, including a new oral health model and new state-of-the-art dental clinics and mobile dental units for schools.
- Waikato Times