So, what do you know about fluoride? Its origin is just outside the top dozen most abundant elements known to man and is fluorine. As well as being added to water, it can be found in certain fruit juices. It has the backing of some influential organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So, it is unlikely that it is going to be banned or limited for a long time. With so many people suffering from tooth decay, and many of them only being children, it is understandable that a lot of research is being carried out to determine what can be done about it. Despite a great deal of research showing that adding fluoride to water will slow down the number of people suffering from decay, there are still some people who do not consider it to be the right decision.
Toothpaste contains fluoride and there is only a small percentage of brands that do not add it. Recent studies showed that only about 10% or lower of users did not have access to fluoridation when cleaning their teeth. As this is the case, some are asking if adding fluoride to water is overkill. Fluoride may be a good thing, but is this too much of a good thing? The answer seems to be a resounding no. There will be more to lose than to gain by taking fluoride out of the water.
It is a little-known fact to most consumers that fluoride is a toxin. There is no need to be too concerned, however, as the amount used in toothpaste is no-where near the level it would have to be to cause illness. Although not ingesting it is always given as a reminder when a check-up is being carried out. The main problem will be discolored teeth and there will be ways that this can be counteracted.
Understanding the figures is important and there has been a lot of research that shows how important adding fluoride is – especially to children and even more so to those from poorer families. As recently as 2010 it was shown that in parts of the USA, the area you lived in and having fluoridated water would reduce the likelihood of requiring filings greatly. Research has been carried out in:
- Alaska –The risk to children was high. A child required 32% more treatment for fillings, extractions, and root canal procedures if they lived in an area where they did not receive fluoridation than if they were in one that did.
- In 2010, both New York and Nevada had their own surveys carried out with regards to New York the children from poorer backgrounds and living where there was little or no fluoridation could expect to need 33% more treatment than their counterparts who were lucky enough to be provided with fluoride. In Nevada, lack of fluoride was considered to be one of the 3 main reasons for tooth decay.
- Nebraska was ahead of the game and did their research in 1998 and at this time the results were even more shocking. The figure was 45% for children without fluoride in the water and considering the fact that almost all of the children were using toothpaste containing fluoride, it is clear that the problem would be much worse if any change to a different type of toothpaste.
Medical professionals are concerned over the current figures, as tooth decay appears to be one area where there has not been a lot of improvement over the years. The problems that are begun in childhood will continue to get worse and over 80% of US residents will begin their adult years with teeth that are in a poor condition.
It is fine for adults to teach their children to clean their teeth at least twice a day, but they need to be given the best water that can be provided for them. At a time when some are struggling to pay day-to-day bills, regular dental check-ups could be on the list of things that have to go on the back burner. If insurance does not cover the cost, then the appointment will not be made. It would be encouraging for them to know that they are getting a little help from their water supplier, especially when it is considered that there is not a great deal of cost to adding fluoridation.
Then there is the other side of the argument – those who consider that there is no need to alter the makeup of the water. Fortunately, those in the military will find that they are looked after, as many of the bases make sure that their water is altered to give the protection that is needed. Even if access to fluoridated water is limited to you, choosing good toothpaste can do a bit to keep the teeth healthy. Again, opinion is divided as to whether this addition is as good as many manufacturers claim it to be.
What some doctors think about fluoride toothpaste
One person who has very strong views regarding this is Dr. David Okano. His 30 years working as a periodontist have given him an insight as to the effect of the increase of toothpaste that is being produced without fluoride and being sold as more natural. His view is that the addition is beneficial and those turning to the new makes will suffer in the future. His attitude to toothpaste is not going to win him any friends in the industry, as he feels that brushing is the catalyst to preventing decay and toothpaste will only give fresher breath and, in some cases, help towards whitening the teeth – but not protection against decay. The Doctor does, however, see the benefit of using fluoride. Minerals will stay in the tooth and not begin the decaying process. It also works to rid the teeth of plaque, so will work in conjunction with the toothbrush and help in the fight against decay and disease. He is emphatic that the teeth will be protected and goes as far as to say that when all things are equal, using toothpaste with fluoride could be the difference between losing teeth to decay and staying decay-free.
With a child, however, there are risks. The toothpaste will still help them, yes, but there is the concern that they may use too much and this will lead to them developing fluorosis. There will be spots on the teeth and while many will be white, there can be dark-colored ones as well. For people who are still not sure if they are in favor or not, it may help to understand how fluoride in toothpaste is able to prevent decay in a couple of different ways:
- Firstly, it works on the bacteria that are known to live in the mouth. This can be leftover from eating and if left overnight will get worse – that is why it is advisable to clean teeth in the morning and just before going to bed. If the bacteria survive, they will turn to plaque, and this, in turn, will put acid into the mouth. Once this happens, the teeth will become weak.
- It will be the use of fluoride that will begin to strengthen them again. The minerals will begin to bring the teeth back to their original state and regular cleaning should keep them that way.
It is clear that there is the need to provide a happy medium – enough fluoride to be effective, but not so much as to damage the teeth. There have been claims, although it seems no hard evidence that too much fluoride can lower the IQ and in extreme cases be responsible for the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and cancer. The public is beginning to show concern and as a result, more and more products that are fluoride-free are being developed.
Some of the best-known companies are turning to fluoride-free toothpaste and knowing that these brands are showing concern could have a knock-on effect and lead to a change of heart for a previous pro-fluoride customer. Dr. Ken’s, Tom’s of Maine, and Burt’s Bees are currently leading the way, and where they lead others are bound to follow. One of the concerns will be the need for so much fluoride rather than they need at all. As a lot of natural items contain it, the addition of water and toothpaste is being questioned. When fluoride is in the mouth, it will be a magnet for calcium and it is well known that the human body needs calcium to help give strong teeth and bones.
When there is no fluoride in the mouth
In such a case, there has to be another way to stop bacteria from surviving. There are some specific items that appear to be quite effective, including:
- Cranberry extract – This is known to prevent infections and remove bacteria from various areas of the body including the mouth. These days some manufacturers are offering toothpaste tablets that contain the natural cranberry extract which is clinically proven to stop the growth of oral bacteria.
- Hydrated silica – This is a mild abrasive ingredient that is repeatedly added to natural toothpaste that lacks fluoride. Its work is to remove teeth stains and has a gel-like texture. To ensure that the fluoride-free toothpaste you are using contains hydrated silica, read its label. If you see silica, silicic acid, silica gel, or hydrated silica, you can buy the product. As the item is harmless, unlike carcinogenic crystalline silica, it is thought to be harmless. Some people don’t agree fully with this as they argue that hydrated silica stops the natural recalcification of your teeth to happen, damages your tooth enamel, and changes the acid balance of your gums, tongue, and mouth. If there is gum disease in your mouth, hydrated silica toothpaste might not be ideal for you.
- Xylitol – This refers to sugar alcohol that is extracted from birch and other types of hardwood trees and plants. Thought to enhance your dental health, xylitol is a sweet substance just like sugar only that it does not get altered in your mouth to form acids that can cause cavities. It is thought to promote a natural way to protect teeth and stop cavities. Sometimes the substance is added to tablets, chewing gums, and breath mints. While research on it has resulted in conflicting results, some evidence that Xylitol in toothpaste can promote your oral health exists. All the same, a Cochrane Database of Systematic reviews report, 2015, found that 10 percent xylitol worked best to remove cavities when a toothpaste product also contained fluoride. In this review, it was found that over two and a half to three years of using a fluoride toothpaste consisting of ten percent xylitol minimized cavities by thirteen percent when compared to a toothpaste product without xylitol. While reporters in this review thought the study was of low quality and that rigorous and thorough clinical trials were needed, they still established that xylitol benefits teeth.
What should I pick between fluoride and fluoride-free toothpaste?
This is a hard question, to be honest, as there is a group that supports all-natural toothpaste without fluoride and another that supports fluoride toothpaste. On a fluoride toothpaste tube, there is usually a warning about the risks of ingesting fluoride. Thus, you should brush your teeth with your fluoride-based toothpaste without swallowing the foam. The reason why there is a hard-to-notice warning on the label is to alert people that too much fluoride is toxic.
While those who don’t support fluoride use in toothpaste think that it can cause cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and a lower IQ, don’t be too quick to chuck it away. Fluoride is an important mineral as even the federal government believes that it has more benefits than risks. This mineral promotes your dental health by killing the bacteria that trigger cavities. As well, it restores minerals to areas that acids have eaten away and weakened; thus, strengthening your teeth. It’s necessary to avoid overusing fluoride though, as excessive use can lead to dental fluorosis.
This is described as a permanent discoloration of teeth and is known to cause spots on teeth. While fluorosis affects people on varying levels, it is not deadly; it is a cosmetic problem. As it is thought to cause cancer and other conditions, it would be best to limit your consumption. So far there is no standard usage limit that has been set, and you cannot tell whether you are consuming too much or too little fluoride until you ask your doctor. As for going totally fluoride-free, you should know that all-natural toothpaste products may not protect you from cavities. While Xylitol is thought to be a useful ingredient, it doesn’t work perfectly without fluoride as we earlier noted.
Hence, the best decision should be made by your specialist based on your current dental status. If he or she thinks that your teeth need more fluoride, then they will ask you to buy toothpaste that contains it. They might as well recommend the brand that could strengthen and whiten your teeth. Another argument is that if your water is fluoridated, it’s less likely that you will require more fluoride in toothpaste. But we would conclude that your local orthodontist is in a better position to pick the best toothpaste for you. You can find additional information about fluoride at www.ada.org.