Fluoride

During my pregnancy, I bought a Primal toothpaste.  Or actually, a tooth powder that you add water to.  The same company makes a natural deodorant.  For the tooth powder, they advertise that it’s free of bad stuff like triclosan, SLS, and fluoride.  Well, I grew up being taught that fluoride in our tap water and toothpaste is a good thing for our teeth.  So during the pregnancy I used the powder in the mornings, and continued to use my regular toothpaste at night.

Now I started wondering more about it- what is the concern about the safety of fluoride?  And is it a legitimate concern?  Or is it one of those things like the anti-vaccine concerns that are not based on good science?  To anyone who is still concerned about vaccines- this is how we doctors feel about it all:

Back to fluoride- these days my time and energy are limited thanks to my son.  So I didn’t delve into extensive research.  But I did check to see what the ADA (American Dental Association) says.  On their website, I found an extensive document that details the safety of fluoride in drinking water.  Bottom line is that there is extensive research backing the safety of the levels of fluoride in our drinking water.  I didn’t find anything specifically mentioning fluoride in toothpaste.  But I figure so long as you’re not ingesting significant quantities of your toothpaste, it should be fine.

As with anything, in large quantities fluoride can cause harm.  And this is something that we’ve known for ages.  If infants and children ingest too much fluoride, then they can develop something called fluorosis, which causes changes in the enamel during its development.  It appears as mottling of the teeth.

At my recent dental appointment, I asked my dentist about it, and she confirmed the above.  Due to concerns about fluorosis in children, she says they should be supervised with dental care.  She says this is so even at an age when they’ve started to do other things independently (she meant early elementary school).  In other words, you don’t want to leave your kid alone to eat that yummy flavored kids’ toothpaste.

Otherwise, she wasn’t aware of any concerns about safety of fluoride in drinking water, in the amounts used in toothpaste (assuming you’re not ingesting it), and in the fluoride treatments used in the dental office.  For some areas that do not have fluoridated drinking water, she recommends supplements.

So for the avoidance of other ingredients, there might be a benefit in using a “natural” toothpaste, but as far as I can tell, there doesn’t appear to be a concern about fluoride if used in the normal fashion.

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