To reduce the risk of cavities and tooth decay, artificial fluoride has been added to public drinking water supplies since 1945. Today, fluoride is also available in many commercial toothpastes, but is it possible we are getting too much?
To be honest, without even completely knowing why, I have avoided toothpaste with fluoride since my son started brushing his teeth. I had heard about the potential harms of too much fluoride in children, including neurotoxicity and tooth discoloration.
In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), recommends using only a “pea-sized” amount of fluoridated toothpaste with children under age six while also monitoring for enamel fluorosis, or white spots on their tiny teeth (for children under the age of three only a “rice-sized” amount should be used). In the spirit of being an informed parent and consumer, I decided that it was finally time to dig deeper into the issue.
Here’s a Little History:
Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that is found in rocks and soil. Artificial fluoride has been added to the public water supply since the 1940’s in an effort to reduce dental caries. Many water supplies, therefore, contain both natural and artificial fluoride.
In the 1980’s the Environmental Protection Agency requested that the U.S. Surgeon General identify an “appropriate margin of safety” for fluoride. A scientific committee found no significant harm to health up to 8 mg/L of fluoride, yet recommend an even lower amount of exposure (2 mg/L) to reduce the risk of osteosclerosis (abnormal hardening of bone) and enamel fluorosis.
In 2015, The United States Public Health Service determined a recommended ratio of fluoride to water, calibrated at 0.7 parts per million.
Why Some Folks Are Concerned:
- Lifelong exposure to fluoride at 4 mg/L or more may result in bone fracture risk
- Certain populations (such as those with renal disease) are more likely to build up fluoride in their bones while other populations, such as athletes, may consume larger amounts of fluoridated water to stay hydrated
- Fluoride may also be found in pesticides, pharmaceuticals, Teflon pans, and foods and beverages made with fluoridated water
- Adding fluoride to drinking water is often viewed as being imposed on the public versus a choice
- Only 50% of the fluoride we consume is excreted by our kidneys. Fluoride may “build up” in our tissues and our pineal gland. The pea-sized pineal gland is found in the brain and is associated with melatonin production. It also is known as our Third Eye Chakra in the Hindu system. While more research must be done, higher fluoride levels appear to be associated with a higher degree of pineal calcification
- Studies have linked high intakes of fluoride to cancer risk, thyroid disease, and cardiovascular risks to name a few
- Some assert that research shows little difference in the rate of dental caries among children in countries that fluoridate water versus those in countries where they do not
What Our Dentists and Doctors Might Say:
More and more parents are refusing fluoride treatments for their children. Many dentists identify this as a “growing problem.”
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children from six months of age to 16-years old receive fluoride supplementation in diet or in drinking water to help prevent tooth decay
- President of the American Dental Hygienist’s Association recommends fluoride for “almost everyone,” especially those deemed as high risk for dental caries as it strengthens tooth enamel and reverses tooth decay
- A Dental Director from the University of North Carolina states that fluoride is an important strategy for cavity prevention between visits to the dentist’s office
- The American Dental Association asserts that fluoride in our water supply is safe and reduces tooth decay by 25%. You can find the 2018 copy of Fluoridation Facts here.
After reviewing the information I found, I have a much clearer stance on both the topical use and ingestion of fluoride for myself and my family. I recommend discussing the issue with your own dental care provider and assessing your own risks based on your consumption of fluoridated water, the nutritional quality of diet, and other oral-care regimens that you may follow.