Alberta Health Services is encouraging some Edmontonians and residents of surrounding communities to schedule a dental checkup and avoid sugary foods as a result of a fluoride interruption in the water.
The interruption is due to upgrades at EPCOR’s E.L. Smith Water Treatment Plant, which services north, west and south Edmonton, as well as Beaumont, Leduc, Morinville, Nisku, Onoway, Spruce Grove, St. Albert, Stony Plain and Sturgeon County.

Residents who receive their water from the Rossdale Treatment Plant, including central Edmonton, east Edmonton and the Whyte Avenue areas will not be impacted.

The fluoride reduction started Sept. 3, and is scheduled to last until March 2020.

“We did look at options to continue keeping the fluoride system operational during the construction but we just found it wasn’t possible to do that and complete the construction at the same time,” said Audrey Cudrak, director of water treatment plants.

But some affected customers said they weren’t even aware of the reduction, saying they would’ve appreciated a heads up to get properly prepared.

“I don’t think that they’re doing their due diligence,” said Meggan Brown. “I think they definitely should have notified us so we could maybe substitute fluoride through other ways, not just through toothpaste.”

Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that is present in fresh water and prevents tooth decay. EPCOR has been adding fluoride to Edmonton’s water since 1966; however, water without fluoride is still safe to drink.

The naturally occurring levels of fluoride in the North Saskatchewan River are approximately 0.1 parts per million (ppm). EPCOR adds fluoride to increase levels to 0.7 ppm as per the Health Canada guideline level.

According to AHS, residents who want to increase their fluoride levels during the interruption are encouraged to use fluoridated toothpaste, schedule a regular dental checkup, and eat healthy foods that are low in sugar.

A dentist told CTV News Edmonton that fluoridated toothpaste can help, but said affected customers might still notice some tooth decay.

“The difference between Calgary and Edmonton: Calgary doesn’t have it and we continue to unfortunately have a higher rate of tooth decay,” said Dr. Bruce Yaholnitsky, president-elect of Alberta Dental Association and College. “There’s a possibility of a slight blip in tooth decay because of that. Where it would affect mostly would be children who are developing their new teeth because systemic fluoride helps develop new strong teeth.”

He said parents of children who are six months and older may want to speak to a dental professional about oral fluoride supplements.