Most dentists will tell you that fluoride is a necessary part of tooth care, that it prevents cavities and that it’s perfectly safe. But a visit to the dentist some years ago had me rethinking the safety of fluoride. We had changed dentists to one who practices both traditional Western dentistry and holistic dental care. He told us that my daughter had fluoride poisoning, thanks to the baby vitamins our pediatrician had prescribed her. He showed us the marks on her teeth – no other doctor or dentist ever mentioned them! The experience made me want to explore more about the safety of fluoride.
Fluoride is not only in toothpaste and baby vitamins. Many counties all over the U.S. fluoridate the water supply too – whether or not you particularly need it. And that begs the question, is fluoride toxic?
Is Fluoride Toxic?
My mind was kind of blown at this idea. Fluoride is toxic? It can poison you? That can’t be right? The science, to be honest, is confusing. I found an article on Ultra Culture that compares two studies, both which seem to contradict each other whether fluoride in drinking water is toxic. The bottom line is that when fluoride levels are too high, it can be harmful. At those levels, it can cause some specific health including:
- Weakened bones.
- Kidney problems.
- Fluorosis, which was what my daughter had.
- An affect on thyroid (associated with low iodine levels).
- It’s uncertain if it affects the endocrine system.
- It’s also been linked to lower IQs in children as well as poor neurodevelopment.
The question then is, how much is in our water and are we getting too much if we use fluoride toothpaste as well? If your child has problems detoxing, is too much fluoride a cause for concern? Mental Health Daily reviewed currently available research on fluoride, and conclude that very high toxicity levels (far above what’s in our water) are clearly damaging, but more studies need to be done on the effects of fluoride.
Finally, the World Health Organization declares that anything below 1.4 milligrams per liter is safe. How much is in your water and how much is in other substances, like vitamins and toothpaste, and do those tip the scales? Naturally, I wondered if you could do without fluoride and still have good teeth.
Is Fluoridated Water Necessary For Good Dental Care?
Good question for parents! Newsweek reported last year, “The Cochrane Collaboration, a group of doctors and researchers known for their comprehensive reviews—which are widely regarded as the gold standard of scientific rigor in assessing effectiveness of public health policies—recently set out to find out if fluoridation reduces cavities. They reviewed every study done on fluoridation that they could find.”
Their conclusion actually states, “There is very little contemporary evidence, meeting the review’s inclusion criteria, that has evaluated the effectiveness of water fluoridation for the prevention of caries.” They did conclue that fluoridated water seemed effective for children, but state,”These results are based predominantly on old studies and may not be applicable today.”
What other evidence is there?
- This article answers the question, how scientists figured out fluoride in general was beneficial: “Where the fluoride level was low there was a high prevalence of dental caries, yet where the fluoride level was high there was a low prevalence of dental caries but a high prevalence of dental fluorosis/enamel mottling.” Without comment on the pros and cons of correlation-driven studies, it seems that the Cochrane Collaboration report contradicts this.
- This interesting: a New Zealand study of 60,000 children in areas with and without water fluoridation saw no difference in the rates of cavities. (I did find a similar review for the U.S. mentioned but couldn’t find support for it.)
- But what about fluoride in toothpaste? From LiveScience: “In theory, all individuals who have their natural teeth may benefit from the fluoride found in toothpastes and mouth rinses. Fluoride inhibits the demineralization of tooth surfaces.” Another words, it protects your enamel… “in theory.”
This is all very confusing. Since one of my children had fluorosis, both have problems detoxifying toxins and all of us otherwise have healthy teeth, we have decided to forego fluoride in our toothpaste.
What Else Is In Your Toothpaste?
Fluoride is not the only questionable ingredient found in toothpaste. You can also find the following, depending on your brand:
- Triclosan: This chemical was determined to be toxic enough recently for the FDA to ban it from bath and beauty products, but not from toothpaste. It is in fact found in Colgate Total.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): There’s some controversy on this and EWG’s Skin Deep database does NOT list this as a dangerous substance but as a low hazard. It can be an irritant or allergen for some but the real issue is whether or not your toothpaste contains a known carcinogen can sometimes be found with SLS called 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen. I’m not sure if toothpaste SLS has this or not, and the pros and cons on SLS looked debatable to me.
- Cocamidopropyl Betaine: This chemical got a high yellow rating on Skin Deep and is also an irritant that can cause an allergic reaction.
- Polyethylene Glycol: This too can can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane and may have other health concerns.
- Microbeads, found in brands like Crest Pro-Health, have used these little toxin-carriers that were banned by Congress last year. They must be removed by summer, 2017, so in the meantime be on the lookout.
These are not all the ingredients in toothpaste, but I won’t do an exhaustive search here. Just know that your toothpaste may not be as clean as you’d like. Keep in mind, too, that small children are warned against too much toothpaste or swallowing it as it can be toxic for them.
What To Do As a Parent
So, what’s a parent to do? For us the choice is easy. Between having fluoridated water, my daughter’s past fluoride poisoning, and issues my children have with properly methylating toxins, we have made numerous changes over the years. Here are 4 things you can to if you are worried about over-fluoridation in your children:
4 Ways to Protect Yourself From Fluoride Poisoning
- Find local fluoridation levels.
You may be able to do this where you live or buy a test kit. We have not tested ours because we know we our water is fluoridated.
- Avoid supplements containing fluoride.
I always feel like supplements are optional. You should be getting all your required nutrition from your food. Since this was the source of my daughter’s poisoning, this area should be one of interest to parents.
- Filter fluoride out of your water.
You need to make sure your system can filter out fluoride. Reverse osmosis may be your best bet. We will be doing this shortly!
- Choose a fluoride-free toothpaste.
Well, actually, you want a toothpaste that is chemical free too – and doesn’t taste like yuck.
Dr. Sharp’s Dental Care
That’s why I was happy to get samples of Dr. Sharp to review and share with you their awesome product. What did I like about it?
- Dr. Sharp carries a full line of dental care, including floss.
- Their products are free from fluoride, gluten, parabens, alcohol, SLS, GMOs and are vegan.
- They make your teeth feel squeaky clean and shiny!
- The floss is good. (This is my most DREADED task but Dr. Sharp’s floss was actually pleasant!)
- Dr. Sharp’s products do use xylitol, which is supposed to be very good for your teeth. It is said that it can repair enamel and reduce bacteria, which is what fluoride is supposed to do., however, I did not find a lot of studies confirming this. If you are not reactive to xylitol, though, I see no reason not to give it a try.
Dr. Sharp’s fluoride-free natural oral care line was developed by a dentist, Dr. Bruno Sharp. This fluoride-free alternative is made from natural ingredients. He has more than 20 years of experience and comes from a long line of dentists. While researching dental care:
“In 2001, after conducting extensive research with the International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT), Dr. Sharp learned that fluoride in the public water system coupled with its inclusion in the foods and beverages we ingest on a daily basis is commonly linked to a wide range of health problems. Upon such findings, he became determined to develop his own brand, a natural, non-toxic and healthy alternative to fluoride toothpaste.”
He is a member of Florida Prosthodontic Association (FPA), American Dental Association (ADA), American College of Prosthodontics (ACP), American Academy of Maxillofacial Prosthetics (AAMP), and International Academy of Oral Medicine & Toxicology (IAOMT).
So, what do you do about toothpaste and dental care? Share your best tips on getting your kids to brush and check out my post on teaching good dental care to kids with sensory processing issues.