Fort Simpson is considering adding fluoride to its drinking water. If it does, the village will become the fourth NWT community to do so.
The territorial government’s Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) states “the addition of fluoride into drinking water remains one of the most cost-effective and accessible interventions community leaders can take to improve oral health in their communities.”
Fort Simpson's councillors raised the possibility with residents at an April 9 public meeting after seeing the question – whether or not to add fluoride – come up in national discourse.
Darrell White, the town’s senior administrative officer, said the community discussion brought out different points of view.
“There’s a lot of people in favour – and there’s a lot of people that... just like the anti-vaxxers, there’s probably lots of anti-fluoride sentiment as well,” he said.
In the end, councillors didn’t feel that residents provided “any strong mandate from the discussion,” said White, and so no action has yet been taken.
“Council just wanted to hear what the sentiment was in the community,” said White. The next steps in the decision-making process are not clear.
On MACA’s website, the department states most communities do not add or remove fluoride from their drinking water, despite the NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer’s determination that an optimal level for dental health is 0.7mg/L – around two to three times the naturally occurring level in NWT water, the department says.
Fort Smith, Inuvik, and Yellowknife do top up their fluoride levels, while naturally occurring fluoride is found in wells in Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte, Whatì, and Wrigley.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, in 2017, nearly 65 percent of the NWT's population had access to fluoridated water.
In some of the territory's communities, dental therapists use a fluoride varnish on children's teeth to make up for the absence of fluoridated water (or simply to provide additional protection).