Dentists in Moncton, N.B., want city councillors to acknowledge a marked increase in tooth decay since they voted to stop adding fluoride to the municipal drinking water supply five years ago.

The “I told you so” comes as Moncton prepares to hold a public meeting next month to drill into the issue with special interest groups and hear online submissions from the public.

In 2011, councillors voted 6-4 in favour of a motion to stop adding fluoride to municipal water with a stipulation to revisit the issue after five years. The decision saved the city more than $500,000 to date. It’s also kept local dentists busy drilling for cavities.

Dr. Don Joyce, a dentist with more than 30 years’ experience, has noticed the absence of additional fluoride in the mouths of his patients.

“I see a marked increase in decay, and the decay is deeper. It’s more serious,” he told CTV Atlantic.

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element that makes teeth more resistant to decay and can even reverse damage once it’s started, according to the Canadian Dental Association.

With the exception of dental fluorosis -- which can cause white specks on an individual’s teeth -- scientific studies have not found any credible links between adding fluoride to drinking water and adverse health effects.

Joyce says both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization support the fluoridation of drinking water, which is believed to be especially beneficial to oral health in children.

“It helps during the formation of the tooth. In other words, it gets into the interface, the architecture of the tooth and makes it stronger,” he said.

Moncton resident Giselle Henwood said the city ought to find the money for fluoride in the budget since residents end up paying for its absence in their dental bills.

“You have to personally pay for it out of your pocket when you go to the dentist,” she said. “Wouldn’t it help if it prevents you from having to spend more money?”

Calgary discontinued water fluoridation in 2011. A study published in February in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology compared the dental health of the city’s Grade 2 children with neighboring Edmonton, which adds fluoride to its water.

The number of tooth surfaces with decay per child increased by 3.8 surfaces in Calgary from 2004/2005 to 2013/2014, compared to an increase of 2.1 surfaces per child in Edmonton. This difference was statistically significant, the researchers said.

Still, additional fluoride leaves a bad taste in the mouths of some critics who point to high cost, unknown health risks, and adequate fluoride from other sources.

“I think there is enough fluoride in your tooth paste. I don’t think you have to ingest it,” said resident Diane Spear.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis