Fluoride in Toothpaste: Yes or No?

fluoride in toothpaste

Do we really need fluoride in toothpaste? Many places in Australia have had fluoridated water since the 1950s (although it varies by region). The government has decided that this practice is safe and beneficial. If we’re already drinking fluoride in our water, why do we need to use more in our toothpaste?

fluoride in toothpaste

How does fluoride in toothpaste work?

Acids produced by plaque eat away at the minerals in your tooth enamel, causing little cavities. Your body can remineralise these spots, filling them in while they’re still small. Fluoride applied topically several times a day speeds up the process. It also helps form bigger mineral crystals that are more resistant to acids.

How does fluoride help protect teeth?

The fluoride in fluoridated water affects children’s tooth buds. While the teeth are still developing, the fluoride replaces some of the minerals. Instead of hydroxyapatite, which our teeth are normally made of, it creates fluoroapatite, which is more resistant to tooth decay.

There is some doubt about how well this process works, and whether drinking fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay in adults at all. A 2015 review by the Cochrane Collaboration, a respected group of doctors and researchers, found that many studies supporting the effectiveness of fluoridated water were flawed. They only found three studies since 1975 that they considered any good. These studies showed that fluoridated water made no difference in the prevention of tooth decay.

And too much fluoride in your toothpaste and your drinking water can have side effects.

What is fluorosis?

Fluorosis is a mottling of tooth enamel caused by consuming too much fluoride. It’s not just cosmetically unpleasant. It’s a sign that your entire body has been over exposed to fluoride, which may be building up in your system. If you take in more than 10 mg of fluoride a day over a long period of time you’re at risk for skeletal fluorosis, a debilitating bone disease.

Fluoride and your health

Back in the early part of the 20th century fluoride was used to treat hyperthyroidism, since it depresses the thyroid. A 2018 study of 10,000 people shows a strong correlation between fluoride intake and lowered thyroid function, even at levels as low as 0.3 mg/L. For reference, the levels in Australian fluoridated water vary between 0.6 and 1.1 mg/L.

If you’re concerned about your thyroid health, or have any family history of thyroid disease, you might want to think about avoiding fluoride altogether. (A reverse osmosis filter can get it out of your drinking water.) Many foods contain fluoride too. Tea is the biggest culprit. It can have as much as 9 mg/L. Red wine, raisins and seafood like crab and prawns may also contain a lot of fluoride.

If you have a healthy thyroid, using fluoride toothpaste should be fine. Just don’t swallow any!

Is fluoride toothpaste safe for babies and toddlers?

Up until the age of five or six, always supervise your children when they’re brushing their teeth to make sure they spit it out properly. If you choose a children’s toothpaste with fluoride, only use a tiny amount, the size of a grain of rice. Fluoride in toothpaste is poisonous in large doses. More is not better in this case. With children under three, you should carefully wipe the toothpaste off their teeth and the inside of their mouth. Or just use fluoride free toothpaste instead.

When choosing your children’s toothpaste, try to go for something with a clean, simple flavour and packaging. Toothpaste that’s flavoured like lollies and decorated with cartoon animals can be almost irresistible. Kids think, ‘If it looks and tastes like lollies, why can’t I eat it?’

Do we really need fluoride?

The plaque germs that cause tooth decay love to feed on sugar and processed carbohydrates, like white flour. Cut down on your sugar intake and you’ll have less plaque. Sugary drinks are especially bad. You can prevent a lot of tooth problems by simply cutting out soft drinks and sweetened drinks. Even fruit juice can harm your teeth.

It won’t help to drink a can of soft drink and rush off to brush your teeth. When you eat or drink anything acidic, like soft drink, pickles or beer, your tooth enamel softens a bit. It’s a good idea to wait at least 30 minutes for your mouth to return to normal before you subject your teeth to the abrasiveness of brushing. Of course, you should brush after every meal, or at least twice a day. Just wait a little while if you had spaghetti bolognese and oranges for dinner.

Chewing sugar free gum can help protect your teeth as well. Xylitol, a low calorie sweetener made from plants, neutralises acid in your mouth and helps remineralise your teeth. Don’t use too much, though! (It can have a laxative effect.)

If you eat well, take care of your teeth and see your dentist regularly, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use fluoride free toothpaste if you want to. We have many brands to choose from. You’ll also find great natural toothpastes with fluoride, like these ones from Lavera and The Humble Co.

Want to learn more about natural dental care?  You can also read our shopping guide for all natural dental products.

Main image credit: Deposit Photos

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Shopping Guide: All The Natural Dental Products You Need For Healthy Gums And Teeth

natural toothpaste and dental products

When you’re making the switch to natural products, it can seem overwhelming. Where do you start?

Well, I think that you start with the products that you use most often. And you use dental products twice a day, so that’s a great place to start!

natural dental products

Think about toothpaste. You use it twice a day, every day. And yet toothpaste can be full of toxic ingredients. I wrote a post recently on what to look out for when you’re shopping for natural toothpaste, so that’s a good place to start.

But there are lots of other products that you use for good dental health.

Here’s what you’ll need for your new natural dental care regimen:

A new toothbrush

Your plastic toothbrush will end up sitting in landfill for hundreds of years. Replace it with one made from biodegradable bamboo or cornstarch. Eco friendly brushes are also better for you — they’re gentler on teeth and won’t hurt your gums.

Toothbrushes with activated charcoal bristles are also brilliant. The Binchotan charcoal-infused bristles on the one from Keeko help remove plaque and prevent the growth of bacteria on the toothbrush itself.

For a deeper clean, you might want to try Dr. Tung’s Ionic Toothbrush, which is clinically proven to remove more plaque than regular brushes. It also reduces gingivitis and hypersensitivity.

Tip: Did you know you’re not supposed to brush your teeth immediately after eating or drinking? According to this study, it’s best to wait at least 30 minutes.

Natural toothpaste

A good toothpaste is key to good oral health. But what if your toothpaste is doing more harm than good? Common toothpaste ingredients like triclosan, fluoride, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulphate, and parabens all have damaging effects on the body.

Instead of the usual supermarket brands, opt for natural toothpastes without synthetic foaming agents, artificial colours and preservatives, and other nasties. Grant’s, Dr. Brite, Miessence, and Dr Bronner’s toothpastes use natural antibacterial ingredients and breath fresheners like peppermint, clove, neem, activated charcoal, and organic coconut oil instead.

Dental floss

Flossing can actually be fun and eco friendly. Noosa Basics’ bamboo fibre dental floss is infused with activated charcoal and lightly flavoured with essential oils. There’s also Dr. Tung’s “smart” floss, which removes up to 55% more plaque and comes in a biodegradable dispenser. I cringe whenever I see dental floss picks (so much plastic waste!), but these ones from Pearlbar are fully biodegradable and are charcoal infused to boot!

Tongue scraper

Tongue cleaning is an ancient dental care practice recommended by both Ayurvedic practitioners and modern scientists. It’s a fast and easy way of getting rid of the food buildup and bad bacteria that can cause bad breath, gingivitis, cavities, plaque, and other dental issues. Do this before you go to sleep and you’ll wake up with fresher smelling breath and a fur free tongue. Try Dr. Tung’s classic tongue scraper, which has comfort grip handles, or the one from Keeko, which is made from copper.

Alcohol free mouthwash

Most of the mouthwashes you see on store shelves contain a frightening amount of alcohol. Apart from the unpleasant burning sensation and the dryness it leaves, you really don’t want alcohol in your mouthwash because it may harm the strength and appearance of teeth. It has also been linked to oral cancer. Fortunately, there are tons of natural mouthwashes that remove plaque, freshen breath, and reduce gum inflammation – all without alcohol.

Non toxic teeth whitening product

Mainstream teeth whitening kits contain harmful chemicals like carbamide peroxide, which can erode enamel and cause sensitivity over time. If staining or yellowing is a problem, there’s loads of natural teeth whitening products to try. The most effective are based on ingredients like activated charcoal, bicarb, bentonite clay, and organic coconut oil.

Breath freshener

For sweet smelling breath when you’re out and about, grab these natural breath freshener capsules or a bottle of mouth spray. Two of our favourites are the organic one from Riddells Creek and the one with activated charcoal from Dr. Brite. They’ll leave your mouth feeling — and smelling — minty fresh in an instant!

VCO for oil pulling

Coconut oil (VCO = virgin coconut oil) is a popular choice for oil pulling not only because it tastes good, but because it’s high in lauric acid that kills bacteria and reduces inflammation. Keeko’s pre-portioned and lightly flavoured coconut oil packets make oil pulling more fun and fuss-free, especially when on the go.

What are your biggest dental health challenges and what do you do to address them? Any natural dental care products you swear by? Share below!

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