Fluoride in toothpaste is a controversial topic. Dentists and dental-health organizations swear by it, saying it’s an effective way to fight cavities and improve oral health. Fluoride has also been linked with improved heart health, bone strength, and brain function! Some claim that fluoride contains toxins and should be avoided at all costs. So what’s the real deal?
The first thing we need to understand is why we put fluoride in toothpaste at. Toothpaste contains varying fluoride levels, typically between 0.15% and 1%. The reason for using so much of this ingredient is that it works as an antibacterial agent:
Fluoride makes the surface of teeth more resistant to bacterial growth, which reduces the production of acid in your mouth. This acid can eat away at tooth enamel and cause cavities to form.
When fluoride combines with saliva enzymes, it forms a new compound called fluorapatite. This compound is more resistant to demineralization than calcium hydroxyapatite (the substance that makes up most of our teeth). Although this doesn’t directly “rebuild” damaged teeth as some other treatments do, fluoride makes them much less likely to be damaged in the first place!
Where can I find fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in rocks, water, plants, and animals. The levels of fluoride present in any one of these depend on the surrounding environment. In some regions, there’s more fluoride than normal, while others have barely any.
In terms of toothpaste, you’ll mostly find it as sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. This type of fluorine isn’t chemically bonded to the tooth enamel with a covalent bond like other minerals, so it’s easy for saliva enzymes to break them apart and absorb the beneficial chemical compounds!
Sodium fluoride has been used for over 100 years as an effective cavity fighter. It was first introduced into dentistry in 1892. It’s estimated that about ninety per cent of the toothpaste sold in the US contains it.
Is Fluoride Safe?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Water fluoridation at appropriate levels is a safe, inexpensive, and very effective public health measure.” The CDC states that water fluoridation has been rated among the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century!
Some people think fluoride is dangerous or toxic, but this doesn’t seem true based on current research. Fluoride in relatively high concentrations (10 times higher than you’d find in drinking water) has been linked with an increased risk of dental fluorosis- which often results in small white spots appearing on the teeth. This is because children’s enamel isn’t fully formed, so the fluoride can penetrate it more easily and cause damage at higher concentrations than when you’re an adult!
What does this mean for me?
Based on all of the evidence available to us now, I think it’s pretty safe to say that fluoride in toothpaste DOES improve your dental health- even if only ever so slightly. If you want to avoid toxins in your life, you might not appreciate having fluoride in your toothpaste. I don’t think there’s anything inherently toxic about fluoride itself. It won’t “hurt” you or make any truly negative impact on your health, either. Fluoride in toothpaste will help to