The city of Calgary will see fluoride return to the public water supply after the Council approved the results of the October 2021 plebiscite. As a result, the implementation of water fluoridation will take place. Consequently, oral health is expected to improve for residents.
The Calgary City Council have ratified the decision to reintroduce fluoride to the public water supply. This was the final hurdle to overcome following the results of an October plebiscite that showed Calgary residents wanted to see fluoride return to the public water supply.
Now that water fluoridation has been approved, the implementation of the system will begin. As a result, there are hopes for an improvement in oral health across Calgary.
What is Water Fluoridation?
Water fluoridation refers to the practice of adding the natural mineral fluoride to the public water supply. The main benefit of water fluoridation is an improvement in dental health. Furthermore, fluoride is a mineral that has proven benefits for dental health.
Water fluoridation is popular in many nations. However, many countries have outright banned the practice. Concerns over fluoridation include potential over-exposure, the ethics behind its use, and the costs involved .
October 2021 Plebiscite
Calgary has a complex history with water fluoridation. On Monday 18th October, Calgary residents voted on water fluoridation, which was the seventh vote on the issue in history .
Calgarians voted in favour of water fluoridation. The vote resulted in a 62%-38% split . Furthermore, voter turnout was just under 47% of the electorate, equating to 333,888 valid votes .
Votes in 1957, 1961, 1966 and 1971 rejected water fluoridation. In 1989, Calgarians voted to add fluoride to the water supply. Moreover, this was upheld in 1999.
In 2011, the Calgary City Council stopped water fluoridation due to economic concerns . Therefore, the 2021 decision has been heralded as a landmark moment for residents.
A plebiscite is not legally binding. Therefore, the final decision over the matter was referred to the Calgary City Council. The Council were expected to ratify this plebiscite. However, there had been concerns over whether or not they would.
In the end, the Council approved the motion 13-2, with only counselors Andre Chabot and Dan McLean dissenting . Therefore, the Council ruled in favor of water fluoridation for Calgary.
Councillor Chabot had complained that the public had not been informed enough on the matter. Subsequently, Chabot has gone as far to say he will be installing a system to block fluoride from entering his water supply .
But other counselors cited a mass information drive, frequent news stories and past familiarity with fluoride as reasons to reject Chabot’s concerns.
Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra had originally been against water fluoridation, having been in favor of ending fluoridation in 2011. However, he changed his mind in 2021, due to his belief that the data clearly showed fluoride’s effectiveness .
News of the Council’s approval was welcomed by many. Calgary’s Mayor Jyoni Gondek praised the decision. She remarked that “oral health is public health”, and that this decision was an example of Calgary’s commitment to public health .
Juliet Guichon, a medical bioethicist at the University of Calgary, was among those to support the campaign to reintroduce fluoride. She thanked the council for their decision.
Guichon said that the decision “demonstrated an acceptance of the scientific consensus opinion based on over 75 years of peer-reviewed research that fluoridation is effective in reducing dental decay” .
However, the decision was not met with universal joy. For example, some declared they would seek filtration devices to avoid fluoride. Others took to social media to declare a hope that another plebiscite will be held soon.
Now that the decision has been made, attention has turned towards the implementation of water fluoride. The Council have stated that it will take 18-24 months to set up water fluoridation .
There will be an initial cost of $10.1million, with further maintenance costs of $1million per year for the next 20 years . This equates to just $1.32 per resident, per year.
The biggest positive is that Calgary residents should see an improvement in their oral health. Fluoride is consistently praised by dentists. It is an important ingredient in toothpaste too.
Past studies into water fluoride have shown its effectiveness. For example, one study compared the dental health of children in Calgary and Edmonton, where water fluoridation exists .
The study found that tooth decay had increased significantly since Calgary stopped water fluoridation, whilst Edmonton’s tooth decay rate had largely remained the same . Therefore, this shows the impact of fluoride.
Guichon has cautioned that it will take “not months, but years” to see a benefit . However, these benefits will surely prove worthwhile. Calgary residents can look forward to improved oral health. This is a milestone moment for Calgary that will be remembered for many years to come.
What we offer at Taradale Dental
Any dental problem should be addressed early, and can be identified at check-ups. This helps to prevent the problem getting worse. So, when further treatment is needed after a check-up, we provide our patients with a clear treatment plan.
The best way of avoiding extra treatment is to have strong oral hygiene. This includes brushing our teeth at least twice a day, flossing regularly, and getting a dental check-up at least twice a year. Avoiding sugary foods and drink and not smoking also helps.
 Robbins, O. (2018). Is Fluoride Bad for You? Or Is Adding Fluoride to Water A Good Thing?. Available: https://foodrevolution.org/blog/fluoride-in-water-dangers/. Last accessed: 20th November 2021.
 Elections Calgary. (2021). 2021 Results – Calgary General Election. Available: https://www.calgary.ca/election/results/2021-results.html. Last accessed: 20th November 2021.
 O’Neill, B., Kapoor, T., & McLaren, L. (2018). Politics, Science, and Termination: A Case Study of Water Fluoridation Policy in Calgary in 2011. Review of Policy Research. 36(1), p99-120.
 Toy, A. (2021). Calgary to reintroduce fluoride to water following city council vote. Available: https://globalnews.ca/news/8374757/calgary-reintroduce-fluoride-water-city-council-vote/. Last accessed: 20th November 2021.
 McLaren, L., Patterson, S. K., Faris, P., Chen, G., Thawer, S., Figueiredo, R., Weijs, C., McNeil, D., Waye, A., & Potestio, M. (2021). Fluoridation cessation and children’s dental caries: A 7-year follow-up evaluation of Grade 2 schoolchildren in Calgary and Edmonton, Canada. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology. (Pre-publication issue): https://doi.org/10.1111/cdoe.12685.