In our era of opinionistas, it’s hard to know what – or who to believe, especially if you’re on social media.
These days, it’s so easy for people to give opinions, even if we lack the qualifications to do so!
So when it comes to fluoride, there’s no end of “experts” willing to tell you what to believe.
So what should we believe?
Sticking with the facts is a good place to start.
First of all, everything is or contains chemicals. Fluoride is a chemical, and yes, it can be toxic in high doses. Even dihydrogen monoxide sounds like scary stuff – until you discover that it is simply water (H2O). Organic food is made up of chemicals. Apples contain a type of cyanide. And pears, dried fruit and nuts all contain formaldehyde.
But you don’t see many Twitter trolls attacking health food shops for selling trail mix.
It also pays to remember the phrase, ‘it’s the dose that makes the poison’. Just because something has a chemical in it, doesn’t mean that it’s doing harm.
Fluoride, at the right dosage, is a lifesaver for teeth. Scientists state that fluoride is the most cost effective and practical way to provide protection from tooth decay. It protects tooth enamel from acids, minimising risk of tooth decay and cavities.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that 1 mg of fluoride per litre of water can reduce tooth decay by up to 29%.
And, how about this: fluoride is considered by America’s CDC to be one of the ten greatest health achievements of the 20th century.
That’s quite an achievement.
Dentists recommend fluoride toothpaste because it helps seal or protect the tooth enamel, preventing decay. Remember, you’re not supposed to swallow fluoride toothpaste. You simply brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste then spit it out. This way, we get all the goodness of fluoride without swallowing any excess.
Incidentally, this is why “kids’ toothpaste” is available without fluoride, because little ones, bless them, can often lack the control required to spit their toothpaste out.
By incorporating fluoride toothpaste into your oral hygiene routine, you help fight the battle against tooth decay. Fluoride toothpaste is not a magic bullet, but it does help strengthen your arsenal against decay.
Today, there is still a rather vocal minority that is unjustly concerned about fluoride – again, largely due to poor reporting on social media. Again, Fluoride must be administered at the right dose. And that’s why we have experts with a strong science education working out these dosages for us. For example, the team at the World Health Organisation tells us that the dose should be 1 mg per 1 L of water. In Australia, our water’s fluoride levels are naturally lower than this amount, which is why we have it added to our tap water to reach the recommended amount.
Certain places, for example, areas in China, have naturally high levels of fluoride. These places have to filter out the excessive fluoride before they deem it fit for public consumption.
Trading on the naive assumption that any chemicals are bad, certain health companies have come out with “natural” fluoride-free toothpaste. These toothpastes have ingredients that sound rather lovely, but ironically, are extremely abrasive on our teeth. For example, common ingredients include bicarb soda and sea salt. These substances will strip your teeth of their enamel, leaving them vulnerable to bacteria and cavities.
So not only are these natural toothpastes lacking in safe, beneficial fluoride – which has a fantastic track record for protecting our teeth, they are also incredibly abrasive, and harmful for your teeth.
Which to choose?
Unless you’re suffering from a rare fluoride-sensitive condition or have a passion for guzzling toothpaste, stick to fluoride toothpaste. Use fluoride toothpaste daily in your oral hygiene routine, and you’ll arm yourself with a strong combatant in the war against cavities, and, just like your dentist, your teeth will thank you for it.
This blog page has been fact-checked by Dentist Dr Aran Moorthy.