CDA Essentials 2017 • Volume 3 • Issue 4

N ews and E vents Were you surprised that your study generated so much attention? We knew there would be some interest. But I have to say I did not fully anticipate the level and intensity of the response. In hindsight, I guess it’s not surprising considering the long-standing debate on the issue. I just want to be clear that the objective of our study was not to persuade anyone to support fluoridation, but rather to take advantage of the decision to discontinue fluoridation as an opportunity to conduct a research study and contribute to the literature. Do you feel that the media accurately reported on your study? I think some reported it accurately; others, less so. I think the issue is that sometimes the media and the public want a quick synopsis and that’s not always possible. The study was complex. It took 3 papers to write up the results and there is a lot of nuance that was not captured in the media reports, which resulted in conclusions sometimes being misstated, or overstated, in some cases. I noticed some news items reported there were more cavities in Calgary after fluoridation stopped, compared to Edmonton . Yes, I saw that as well, but it’s actually not true. At our post-cessation survey, levels of decay were very similar in the two cities—but what we were looking at was the change over time. Calgary used to be much better than Edmonton, and now the two cities are on par with one another. WATER FLUORIDATION IN ALBERTA: STUDY PLACES CALGARY RESEARCHER IN CENTRE OF HEATED DEBATE lmclaren @ LindsayMcLaren,PhD Dr. McLaren is associate professor, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta. This interviewhasbeencondensedandedited. Theviewsexpressedarethoseoftheauthor anddonotnecessarilyreflecttheopinions orofficialpoliciesoftheCanadianDental Association. Dr. Lindsay McLaren, associate professor in the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, is the lead author of a research paper that examined whether removing fluoride from Calgary’s municipal water supply has had an impact on children’s oral health. The study, published in the February 2016 issue of Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology (see p. 17 for study summary), reported that children in Calgary experienced a greater increase in tooth decay for primary teeth compared to their counterparts in Edmonton, where municipal water continues to be fluoridated. The intense media and public response to the paper’s publication, which suggests a public health benefit from fluoridation, illustrates how closely this issue is followed in Canada and beyond, and the relationship between science and public policy. Soon after the study was published, Calgary city council’s decision to stop fluoridating its drinking water in 2011 was called into question. According to media reports, city councillors who voted against fluoridation in the 10-3 council vote were asked whether they had changed their minds on the issue in light of the study’s findings, and at least two city councillors met with Calgary’s medical officer of health to discuss whether the province would help fund the cost of putting fluoride back in the water. It’s possible that fluoridation may be back on the table for the 2017 municipal election in Calgary. Not surprisingly, the study also attracted plenty of criticism from those opposed to fluoridation. Critics were quick to declare the study flawed and unscientific, and some attacked Dr. McLaren’s motives and character. We asked Dr. McLaren about the reaction to her study, and what it means for the debate on fluoridated drinking water.