To use fluoride toothpaste or not… that is the question.
Well, if that is the question, here is my answer… we don’t.
If you do a web search on fluoride, you’ll find a million and one articles ranging from rants on fluoride being rat poison to being responsible for causing sudden death in the dentist’s chair. Reading through those articles is almost enough to make me dismiss anti-fluoride claims all together and return to the *safety* of fluoride toothpaste. Almost.
Because after going through great pains to weed through the inflammatory and hyper-fear-based information out there on fluoride, the bottom line is that we are getting so much fluoride in our food and water, adding it to toothpaste is absolutely worth re-thinking.
Finding pics to go with this topic was a tad challenging, but I recently took this picture of my “Reaching For Guidance” Goddess Necklace Art Pendant to list in my Etsy shop… and it has a few teeth in this pic, so here ya go.
Some background on fluoride.
Fluoride is toxic in large quantities, absolutely no doubt about it. If you don’t believe me, go check your fluoride toothpaste label… right on the tube will be a warning not to swallow fluoride toothpaste, and to call poison control if any more than a pea sized amount is ingested. In fact, fluoride is not recommended in children under 2 years old because of the swallowing risk… and this is by folks (like the ADA) who are huge supporters of fluoride in general.
Fluoride is known to disrupt bone, hormone, brain, thyroid, kidney and reproductive health. It is an enzyme inhibitor, point-blank. You can find a million studies that go into detail about each of these effects.
So what’s the problem with the miniscule amounts of fluoride added to the public water supply?
The problem with fluoride is that it accumulates in bone… it is estimated about 50% of the fluoride we consume is eliminated, and 50% is stored. Miniscule amounts of flouride adding to our bodies sip after sip after sip equals a not-so-minimal exposure. Over a lifetime, these levels can reach high proportions… decreasing bone density and causing brittleness. For a nation whose women have epidemic proportions of osteopenia and osteoporosis, it would be crazy to continue to use fluoride on a daily or twice daily basis… and then use even more Rx to combat the osteoporosis that develops later in life. Studies have shown that the rate of hip fracture in elderly is directly increased in areas that fluoridate their water.
The truth is, even if you feel that you *need* fluoride to help reduce the incidence of cavities… you are getting plenty of fluoride through your foods. Plants store fluoride found naturally in the earth AND from the water used to irrigate crops. Yep, even organic crops have fluoride in them from the irrigation water.
Statements from reps of the National Institutes of Health recommend that people who drink large quantities of water should not drink tap water, but instead switch to bottled water. We are just getting so much exposure to fluoride, to intentionally consume extra fluoride, whether through drinking water or toothpaste, is way too much.
Your skin absorbs fluoride as well, so even when you are showering or taking a bath, you are absorbing fluoride.
New studies show that about 40% of children today have discolored or pitted teeth from the extreme levels of fluoride we are now exposed to… both topically in toothpaste and internally through food and water. This tooth deformation is called dental fluorosis, and is caused by abnormal enamel (and even completely absent enamel) formation. If you have white spots, brown spots, or pitting in your teeth or your children’s teeth, you might look into eliminating fluoride exposure completely (evil snicker…)
The problem with trying to eliminate fluoride exposure completely is you can’t… not really. Removing fluoride from water is tough. Filters like Brita don’t cut it. Fluoride is unaffected by most filtration methods. To actually be certain you reduce the fluoride in your water, you would need to install a reverse osmosis filter in your home.
Well, I thought I was off the hook because we have a private well… nope.
Not in Charleston, SC, anyway. Unfortunately, I found that using water from deep wells actually increases our risk of having high levels of fluoride in our water. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral in the ground, and well water actually has higher concentrations of fluoride (because it comes from deeper in the ground) then the treated surface water that Charleston County uses… or the water that Mount Pleasant uses, which has such high naturally occurring levels of fluoride that Mt P. actually treats the water to *remove* fluoride. What!?!? Here I thought I was going to get all worked up about the ethical problem of mass medicating a society without consent and yet I find that treated water might actually have less fluoride in it then my own well water. Sheesh! Told you there was *enough* flouride in this world that you really don’t need to bring a fluoride toothpaste into your home.
Some water tested in our area of SC had over four times the recommended *safe* levels of fluoride in the water. And remember, that’s not accounting for the fluoride we are eating and bathing in… just drinking. The only way to know if your well water is safe is to have DHEC test it. The cost of the test is $25.
To make myself feel better about the fact that we drink well water, I looked into how Charleston treats our water supply. Yep, I’m still glad we have a well. Here is what they add to the water after filtering the water to clean it.
Straight from the Charleston Water System website:
“Once the water is filtered, other chemicals are added to disinfect the water and adjust pH.
Chlorine is added as the primary disinfectant.
Lime is injected to readjust the pH to normal levels and fluoride is added to help the prevention of tooth decay.
Orthophosphate is also added to the water to prevent corrosion of water pipes. It works by forming a molecular coating on the inside of metal pipes that prevents lead and copper in home plumbing fixtures from leaching into the water.
Finally, chlorine and ammonia (chloramines) are added to disinfect against harmful bacteria and viruses to protect the storage tanks and distribution pipes.”
Sounds delish, don’t it? Some chlorine, some ammonia, some lime, some fluoride… little orthophosphate, and a dash more chlorine for added flair. Sounds like a tasty cocktail to me.
So here is my bottom line:
1 — our primary defense against tooth decay is manually brushing our teeth.
2 — even if you like the idea of having fluoride supplementation, you get enough of it through your food and water. Adding concentrated amounts to your oral mucosa to be absorbed seems toxic to me.
3 — I would prefer to decrease the systemic effects of fluoride (in the form of bone fractures, kidney damage, hormone disruption, and brain/bone accumulation of fluoride) and would probably rather have a cavity in every single one of my teeth then further increase my systemic exposure to fluoride.
4 — I’m not convinced my desire to avoid cavities outweighs my desire to avoid osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s, endocrine disorders, and a host of other disease’s related to fluoride exposure.
5 — I’m not convinced that using fluoride actually makes a difference on cavity prevention. Many studies have shown mixed findings on this issue… some find cavity protection and some do not. All agree that manually brushing and flossing your teeth, and *physically removing* food particles are first line of defense against cavities, regardless.
Sort of like I would prefer to use physical means of avoiding UV exposure (like rashguards, hats, sunglasses, physical sunscreen ingredients) over using toxic chemical sunscreens… I would prefer to physically remove food debris and have regular professional cleanings over using a toxic chemical toothpaste.
In fact, in my family, I have one child who doesn’t use any toothpaste at all.
Just a toothbrush and water.
I have one child who likes the non-fluoride toothpaste, for added foaming action and taste.
The child who absolutely never uses toothpaste (the cute little guy buried in sand to the left) is the ONLY ONE OF US who has absolutely zero cavities. Nada. None. Zilch.
So I’ve started seeing toothpaste as just a simple, yet optional, way to add some enjoyment to the toothbrushing process, but really it’s just for flavor and mild scrubbing action. I think investing in a really great toothbrush and changing the head of it often makes more sense then stressing out about if you should use a fluoride toothpaste or not, and which one to try.
But what is our favorite choice for toothpaste, anyway? I’ve discovered a new one I really love… and will tell you all about it on Wednesday! Along with a list of some of our old fav toothpastes. Meet me back here on Wed and let me know what toothpastes you love too. xoxo