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N Z Dent J. 2008 Dec;104(4):127-33.

Collaboration, vision and reality: water fluoridation in New Zealand (1952-1968).

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  • 1The University of Queensland, School of Dentistry, Brisbane, Queensland.


In comparison with that of other nations in the British Commonwealth, New Zealand's early and comparatively high adoption of water fluoridation was a distinctive health policy. National concerns about the caries epidemic and the legacies of TR Hunter, F Truby King, HP Pickerill and JP Walsh engendered a spirit of cooperation between the Department of Health, the New Zealand School Dental Service, the Medical Research Council (of New Zealand), the New Zealand Dental Association and the University of Otago's dental and medical schools. The consequence was a contagious culture of multidisciplinary research and institutional liaisons that produced exceptional dental epidemiology. The government's involvement in children's public dentistry harmonised with fluoride advocates' radical vision of community caries reduction. New Zealand assumed not only a leading international role in immediate post-World War cariology, but also the dominant position in the fluoride politics of the British Commonwealth. The incomplete fulfilment of Fuller's "Dreams Pursued" presents a case study that confirms the roles of both scientific evidence and centralised political authority in public health administration. Paradoxically, political scientists have largely ignored New Zealand's early adoption of water fluoridation. This paper addresses this deficiency.

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