Most people are used to having tons of fluoride in their everyday life, even if they aren’t aware of it. That’s because fluoride is a default inclusion for most drinking water sources in cities and suburbs, and most of us also use toothpaste fortified with fluoride.
But while this is all supposed to help with general dental health, it’s also true that too much fluoride can lead to a handful of potential side effects. Let’s break down why it’s questionable to use fluoride toothpaste, and also explore natural toothpaste as an alternative so you can enjoy great dental health from all-natural ingredients.
What’s the Purpose of Fluoride?
There are some good reasons why fluoride is considered a default dental additive. Indeed, fluoride was first discovered to have multiple dental benefits in the 1930s by accident, and by the 1950s it was a staple in dental care. It all relates to enamel – a highly mineralized tissue that comprises much of your teeth. In fact, enamel is responsible for how durable and long-lasting your teeth are.
While we all start off with plenty of enamel to spare, it often wears down over time through regular chewing activity or through bacterial invasion, which can lead to cavities. Since enamel can’t really be replaced, dentists across the world began to focus on measures to bolster existing enamel.
Fluoride can, to some extent, fortify and potentially rebuild enamel if enough of it is absorbed by your teeth. That’s because fluoride can fill in gaps left by tooth decay, and thus help to fight against cavities and other tooth-related issues.
These days, it’s standard for fluoride to be added to the majority of public drinking water systems, so most tap water will have some fluoride by default. The majority of toothpaste products also include tons of fluoride in order to provide more cavity-fighting benefits.
If Fluoride is So Good, Why Avoid It?
Here’s the thing – too much of anything is bad for us, and fluoride is no exception. Everything must be consumed in moderation, which is one of the reasons why it’s important to be aware if it's in a product you use, and how much you might accidentally be ingesting.
These days, it’s all too easy to accidentally absorb too much fluoride.
For instance, lots of people drink water containing fluoride, eat food that was made with water that had fluoride in it, and then brush their teeth with toothpaste containing fluoride at least once or twice per day. That’s a lot of fluoride, no matter how much it’s supposed to help our teeth.
Furthermore, kids are especially vulnerable to ingesting too much fluoride. Many of them accidentally swallow their toothpaste every morning and evening, which causes fluoride and other compounds to be absorbed by the body’s digestive system, instead of absorbed by the teeth.
All told, consuming tons of fluoride every day is bound to have some unintended side effects, which is why many are now questioning the necessity of using fluoride-based toothpaste.
Risks of Overexposure to Fluoride
It’s quite possible to absorb too much fluoride in your body due to your tooth brushing habits, or because you use a high-fluoride toothpaste plus drink water with fluoride in it. The risks are numerous:
- If your teeth are exposed to high concentrations of fluoride during childhood, you might experience a condition called dental fluorosis. This results in tiny specks or white streaks in the enamel of your teeth. This normally only happens when the teeth are developing, and everyone eventually loses their first set of teeth, but it’s still noticeable.
- Long-term exposure to fluoride can lead to a bone disease called skeletal fluorosis. Like its dental counterpart, this can result in imperfections forming on your bones. But unlike your teeth, you only get one skeleton for your entire life. Thus, these growths or imperfections can lead to pain and damage in your bones and joints. More specifically, skeletal fluorosis can cause your bones to become hardened and less elastic, which may lead to an increased risk of fractures.
- Certain people may be vulnerable to damage to their parathyroid gland if they consume too much fluoride over a long time. This can, in turn, cause your parathyroid gland to secrete too many hormones, which can cause your bone structure to lose calcium.
- Lastly, there’s some evidence to suggest that abnormal exposure to fluoride in-utero (i.e. if the mother absorbs too much fluoride during pregnancy) can lead to poorer cognitive development outcomes for the child.
All in all, while fluoride can be helpful when absorbed in small quantities, it’s often too much to combine both fluoride toothpaste and the fluoride in your drinking water.
What Can You Use Instead of Fluoride?
While we can’t very well stop fluoride from being added to public drinking water, we can choose to use natural, fluoride-free toothpaste products instead.
Like their fluoride-focused counterparts, natural toothpaste can still clean your teeth and get rid of bacteria, dirt, and debris and help maintain long-term dental health.
Even better, many natural toothpaste products, like our Peppermint Toothpaste, can soothe the gums and freshen your breath thanks to the powerful plant-based ingredients in its formula. Our toothpaste includes peppermint oil, aloe vera leaf extract, calendula flower extract, and other natural ingredients to provide a holistic and wholesome dental health product without any of the side effects or risks of ingesting too much fluoride.
Are Natural Toothpastes Good Enough?
Absolutely. Natural toothpaste can be just as effective at cleaning teeth and soothing gums as many of the leading fluoride-filled brands. Remember, fluoride isn’t exactly antibacterial – all it’s designed to do is help fill in the microscopic gaps in your teeth and promote remineralization of enamel if some tooth decay has already taken place.
While natural toothpaste doesn’t play a role in remineralization, its nutrient-rich ingredients can still support good oral health and a clean, happy mouth.
Even better, natural toothpaste products are generally safer for use with kids. While you shouldn’t let them swallow toothpaste intentionally, it’s not as much of a problem if they accidentally swallow all-natural ingredients when they are still learning to brush their teeth properly. There’s no extra fluoride or any other synthetic or artificial compounds that might pose a risk.
Ultimately, continuing to use fluoride toothpaste in this day and age is a little questionable when you consider how much fluoride we all probably absorb from our drinking water (with the exception of our friends in rural communities who often have well water).
It’s undoubtedly a good thing that we all get a little fluoride to help bolster our teeth’s enamel and make sure that dental problems don’t become too widespread, but consuming too much fluoride is a real risk and it’s something we can all take steps to overcome through using natural toothpaste.
If you’re ready to give fluoride-free, all natural toothpaste a try, check out our Peppermint Toothpaste and see how plant power can support your pearly whites!