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By: Jonathan Chatfield
Wondering about fluoride in toothpaste? If so, take a journey with me back to your childhood for a moment. For some, the trip will be pleasant, for others, less so. The destination? Your Dentists office. Cue the dramatic flashback music!
I’m sure most of us can recall sitting in that super-cool space-age chair, swishing and spitting on command as the Hygienist dutifully cared for our pearly whites. In between suction and rinsing, they would tell us all about the ‘proper’ way to brush our teeth. “Keep the brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums…use a back and forth stroke, and be sure to get front, back, and top of each tooth. Oh, and make sure you do it for at least two minutes, twice a day!”
The Dentist would then come in and perform a thorough exam. Providing we were fastidious about our oral hygiene and had no serious issues like cavities to deal with; we would be in the clear. Finally, we would sit and enjoy a bath for our teeth in an enticingly flavored Fluoride treatment. Bubblegum was always my favorite.
But what role does fluoride in toothpaste play in our dental health? Is it good for us, or bad? We will investigate today and look at both sides of a controversy that has picked up a bit of steam in recent years.
Fluoride is the ‘Nature’s Cavity Fighter,’ a title well-earned. To get all sciencey for a moment, it is a form of the element Fluorine. Sodium Flouride is the compound form. It is used to treat and prevent tooth decay. Most toothpaste and mouthwashes contain fluoride, and some countries even add it to their table salt. Most cities in the United States add it to the drinking water supply. Dentists can also perform a professional application as we talked about in our flashback. Additionally, you can get a prescription for Fluoride Supplements. Reserved for children between 6 and 16 where there is not adequate water treatment, this is an excellent option.
Fluoride in toothpaste aids in the protection of our teeth by making our enamel more resistant to the acids and bacteria that can cause tooth decay. The American Dental Association began recommending fluoride in the 60’s, and, as a result, we have seen a massive decline in cavities.
These recommendations for use are directly from the ADA:
- Brush twice a day (morning and night) or as directed by your dentist and physician
- For children younger than three years, start brushing their teeth as soon as they start to appear in the mouth by using fluoride toothpaste in an amount no more than a smear or the size of a grain of rice.
- For children 3 to 6 years old, use no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste.
- Always supervise your child’s brushing to make sure they use the right amount and try to get your child to spit out most of the toothpaste.
Every story has two sides, and the “Tale of Two Fluorides” is no exception. See what I did there? In all seriousness, though, there are many detractors of fluoridation who believe it’s usage is endangering our health and causing or contributing to myriad diseases and conditions. In the United States, upwards of 74% of the population on community water systems receive fluoride through their water. Conversely, it is estimated that 97% of Western Europe has outlawed water fluoridation.
So what’s all the hub-bub? Opponents of fluoride have implicated it as the cause or primary factor in the development of conditions like arthritis, thyroid disease, and even the bone cancer osteosarcoma. Some studies link its use to brain damage, lowered IQ and more. The jury is still out on the detrimental effects of fluoride. If you are concerned about the fluoride in toothpaste, there is tons of information out there to sift through.
But what about the Fluoride in Toothpaste?
I’m going to answer that now; I just thought it best to provide you with some background information first.
You see, this where the argument gets a bit tricky. If there are detrimental effects from fluoride, it would likely be due to over consumption. There is a known condition called Fluorosis that can occur, mainly in children. Its symptoms are mostly cosmetic and can include streaks or lines in the teeth caused by excessive ingestion of fluoride during enamel formation. What this means is, you can’t get it after you already have your teeth. Ingesting massive amounts of fluoride before the age of six might cause you problems, but otherwise, you are safe.
There appears to be evidence for both sides of this controversial topic. The best choice may come down to the individual. If you are not having issues, and the benefits are apparent for you, by all means, continue your usage. However, if you are experiencing health problems, like fluorosis, or another problem you can trace without doubt to your usage of Fluoride, then perhaps a discussion with your Dentist or Doctor is in order. The most important thing you can do is to research for yourself. Educating yourself on any issue is always the best course.