School dental programme hit by fluoride issues
A supply problem has forced a dental health programme in schools to be scaled back.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health said that the programme was told in August that its usual supplier could no longer provide fluoride, used to prevent tooth decay.
But the spokeswoman said: “After research, we were able to find a new a creditable vendor and we are currently awaiting arrival of the order.
“We were, however, proactive to inform parents of the situation early, in the event that the supplies would be late.”
She added: “We distributed what we had to some schools at the start of the school year. We are still distributing fluoride at the clinics.”
A letter sent to teachers and parents in September said that there had “been a delay in the start of the programme”.
The letter, signed by Janice Baron, the acting chief dental officer, said the delay was due to vendor problems.
Dr Baron said: “It is anticipated that we will have everything in place to start after the midterm holiday.
“As per the norm, we will send home a note informing you of the actual start of classroom distribution.”
The midterm break for public schools was from October 21 to 25.
The spokeswoman did not respond yesterday when asked when the fluoride programme would restart.
The supply problem came to light after a Pembroke private school announced that it would end its fluoride programme.
Linda Parker, the head of the Bermuda High School, said yesterday that the school would stop giving fluoride tablets to pupils.
Ms Parker said that parents so far had welcomed the move and that the school was “confident in our decision”.
She added that many parents had opted not to take part in the programme “because they prefer to monitor the dosage at home”.
Mr Parker said that the school had advised parents of primary pupils who wanted their child to continue to take fluoride that it could be obtained from the Department of Health.
She added that other island schools had also opted to drop their fluoride programmes “for a variety of reasons”.
Other island private schools said they still had fluoride programmes, but had also suffered from a lack of supplies.
Sue Moench, the principal at Mount Saint Agnes Academy, said that the school did operate a programme.
Jane Vickers, a spokeswoman for Warwick Academy, said that the school also had a fluoride programme.
She added: “Having said that, it has not started this school year yet because the government dental clinic is out of fluoride.
“Once the tablets are available we will distribute.”
The Ministry of Health spokeswoman said that “all public schools ... as well as some private schools” were participating in the programme, which was launched in 1978.
She added: “The fluoride is provided in schools and homes, according to the parental choice.”
The spokeswoman said that the programme covered children up to the end of primary school.
She added: “Children who are at higher risk are allowed to continue supplementation up to the age of 16.”
The American Dental Association said that fluoride, when used as directed, was “a safe and effective agent” used to help prevent cavities and tooth decay.
It said that fluoride supplements can be given to children aged from six months to 16 years “whose primary drinking water has a low fluoride concentration”.