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Friday December 31, 2010

Water fluoridation re-introduced

KOTA KINABALU: Water fluoridation would be re-introduced into Sabah’s public water supply next year.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abd Rashid Shirlin said the project was under the 10th Malaysia Plan.

“An allocation of RM2.5mil has been set for it,” she added.

Water fluoridation was discontinued in 1989 by the then Sabah government which feared inadequate supervision in the process of adding fluoride to the water could cause adverse effects.

A concentration of 1mg/L or more may likely cause dental fluorosis, an irreversible condition, among children.

However, the optimum fluoridated level set by the Health Ministry is between 0.5mg/L and 0.7mg/L. This level has been maintained as ensured by the National Standard for Drinking Water Quality.

Fluoride plays a key role in the prevention of tooth decay.

The fluoridation process involves adding sodium fluoride or hydrofluoric acid to treated water before it is sent to the holding tanks.

The Malaysian government since 1972 approved fluoridation of water as a primary caries prevention programme.

Community water fluoridation is regarded as the safest and most cost-effective method of reducing dental decay.

When the then Sabah government ceased water fluoridation, there was an outcry by some quarters which the Health Ministry had dismissed then, considering it a ‘state matter’ as water is a state utility.

Incidentally, a 1985 Dental Health Survey of School Children in Sabah revealed the state has the worst dental health scenario compared to the rest of the country and the move to stop flouridation of water.

On Oct 18, Principal Director (Oral Health) in the Health Ministry, Datuk Dr Norain Abu Taib said at the National Oral Health Plan for Malaysia (2011 - 2020) Forum that only 75.5% of the country’s population are enjoying the benefits of water fluoridation.

On a separate matter, Rosnah said a total of 20 dental officers were employed this year to serve in government dental clinics in Sabah.

”It is by far the largest intake as compared to previous years,” she said. — Bernama

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