There is a lot of controversy surrounding the impacts fluoride has on our health. It is used in and most commonly known to be in our toothpaste, and other dental products such as mouthwash. This is a product which most of the world population uses on a daily basis!
How is there a product we use so frequently but there is no major coverage on what it could potentially be doing to our health, especially in children?
I have heard many theories about fluoride and its potential health implications but I wanted to know more about what it actually is, how much is actually in the products we use and is it a safe dosage?
What is Fluoride?
Fluoride is an ion derived from the element fluorine, a gas that cannot be found in its elemental state in nature. Fluoride is sufficient in the environment but exists only in combination with other elements, as Fluoride compounds are elements of minerals in rock and soil. Accordingly, Fluoride is commonly found and/or associated with volcanic activity.
We use fluoride in toothpaste to prevent and control dental cavities. Fluoride works through enhancing the remineralization of early stages of caries and by inhibiting demineralization, which would lead to dental caries (1).
What Sources Are Fluoride Found In?
Fluoride is naturally found in groundwater which is contaminated by geological sources such as soils and sediments; it would, however, be at a maximum concentration of 30-50mg/l.
It is also found in natural foods such as fruits and vegetables but these have VERY low amounts such as 0.01 – 0.03mg/l. So these types of foods are not of concern for our health.
Common sources we use fluoride include:
- Dental products
- Processed foods made with fluoridated water
- Fluorinated pharmaceuticals
- Fluoride-containing pesticides
- Bottled tea
- Nonstick Pans
How Much Fluoride is in our Toothpaste?
The single piece of toothpaste we put on the length of our toothbrush contains approximately, 0.75 to 1.5 mg of fluoride. This is over the recommended amount of fluoride that is allowed in most prescription fluoride supplements (0.25 to 1.0 mg).
That is already quite concerning!
Additional to that, it is very common for children to have more toothpaste ingested then this, especially if the toothpaste is flavored.
Research has shown that some children swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than is recommended from all sources combined even though dentist recommend a pea-sized amount of fluoride per brush.
As stated in the Journal of Public Health Dentistry:
“Virtually all authors have noted that some children could ingest more fluoride from [toothpaste] alone than is recommended as a total daily fluoride ingestion.” (Levy 1999).
In fact, the FDA in the US has to have a poison warning on all toothpaste products. It states, ‘”If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.”
How Much Fluoride is Safe To Consume?
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center:
- Adult men can safely consume 4 milligrams of fluoride per day
- Adult women can safely consume 3 milligrams per day
- Children can safely consume no more than 2-3 mg/day.
More information about this can be found here
Is Fluoride Harmful to Our Health?
Excessive consumption of fluoride over a long period of time can cause serious public health concerns such as Fluorosis.
This is dental mottling and involves skeletal manifestations such as deformities, osteoporosis, and osteosclerosis. However, this only occurs during tooth formation, during our early years between the ages of 0-8 (2).
The severity of dental fluorosis depends on factors such as the dose, timing, and duration of fluoride consumption. In its mild forms, dental fluorosis presents as cloudy white splotches and streaks on the teeth, while in its moderate and severe forms, fluorosis can cause extensive brown and black staining along with pitting and crumbling of the enamel (3).
Effects on the Brain
Fluorosis is one of many examples of the potential risks excessive fluoride intake can cause.
Astoundingly there have been many studies showing a relationship between fluoride and human intelligence, more specifically, affecting our memory.
How many studies do you ask? Well, I’ll be sure to shock you, 60 studies investigated this relationship!
40 of them were using the memory of animals. Out of these studies, 53 were positive in showing a direct link between elevated fluoride exposure and reduced IQ in humans. In the animal studies trial, 45 of them found that fluoride exposure decreased their learning and memory capacity.
In regards to the human studies, which were focused on IQ
examinations were done with over 15,000 children who provided outstanding evidence that fluoride exposure to a child, can damage their developing brain.
A team of Harvard scientists reviewed 27 of the human IQ studies and concluded that fluorides impact on young children’s brains should be of a high priority (4). The National Research Council and scientists in the Neurotoxicology Division of the Environmental Protection Agency also reviewed the studies and reached similar conclusions that this was a very serious matter (5).
Additionally, a recent study concerning the link between fluoride and ADHD reports a large relationship between fluoride exposure and ADHD symptoms/diagnosis, even across six different years.
The authors of the study noted that states who received the most fluoridated water had more ADHD diagnoses even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
After researching this information I have come to the conclusion that for adults it is OKAY to have some fluoride but is not 100% necessary and looks as if it isn’t AMAZING for our teeth and mental health.
Children, however, it sounds like it is very dangerous for them especially because they do eat a lot of toothpaste, I know I did as a child!
I, personally am steering away from fluoride toothpaste as it does not seem natural and even if it has some benefits to ridding cavities, why not use other sources to prevent cavities and be safer especially if you have children?
Swapping Fluoride For…?
We do not need fluoride to maintain healthy teeth and prevent dental cavities. Cavities are formed from excess bacteria. The bacteria sticks to our teeth via plaque and then the bacteria eats away at your teeth from inside the plaque.
The protective coating over our teeth is called enamel and protects the insides of our teeth from external elements. Enamel lasts our whole life but can be worn down.
To avoid bacteria growth and avoid using fluoride to get rid of the bacteria and risk health implications, you can steer away from excess consumption of acidic foods and sugar, because they encourage bacteria growth in our mouths so avoiding these foods will avoid a bacteria thriving environment.
Brushing your teeth regularly twice a day is also crucial to removing plaque off our teeth and alkalizing the mouth as well as to deprive us of a bacteria prone environment
You can always make a homemade toothpaste but not all of us have the time and interest to do this, I’ll put my hand up now and say I am not that motivated!
Otherwise, there are other toothpaste options to try out that do not contain fluoride.
CocoClean is one I have been using and really enjoying not only because of the taste but the refreshing feeling afterward. The creator is a dentist herself, and a mother of 3.
I really recommend this toothpaste or other fluoride-free brands to anyone who wants to reduce their use or their children’s use of fluoride, so you can avoid consequences ranging from fluorosis to impacting their IQ and memory function.
You can trust Cococlean as it is fluoride free, sulfite free, healthy, vegan and supports women in crisis.
There is no baking soda, charcoal or salt used in Cococlean which can be too harsh on the teeth.
The creator of Cococlean does not use fluoride because she believes it should only be used in small doses when required.
Ingredients: Deionised water, Calcium Carbonate, Glycerin (plant derived), Methyl Cellulose, Silica, Lauryl Glucoside, Fractionated Coconut Oil, Spearmint Oil, Stevia, Xanthum gum, Xylitol, Sodium Benzoate, Potassium Sorbate
If you want a more personal outlook on her product and what she is all about, you can check her Instagram out here.
I hope this has cleared up some misconceptions about fluoride and its potential impacts on our health and give you somewhere to start in terms of looking for a new toothpaste brand!
Please feel free to comment below your thoughts on this topic, I am interested in what everyone has to say 🙂
The Earth Co.
(1) J, M, Cate, 2013 ‘A contemporary perspective on the use of fluoride products in caries prevention’, British Dental Journal, pp. 161-167, Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/sj.bdj.2013.162
(3) Fluoridealert.org, n.d. Fluoride Action Network | Toothpastes, Available at http://fluoridealert.org/issues/dental-products/toothpastes/
(4) Choi, A. L., Sun, G., Zhang, Y., & Grandjean, P. (2012). Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Environmental health perspectives, 120(10), 1362.
(5)Fluoride.org, n.d. Fluoride Action Network, Fluoride & IQ: The 53 Studies, Available at: http://fluoridealert.org/issues/dental-products/toothpastes/
(6) Betterman, E, 2017, New Study Reveals Link Between Fluoride and ADHD, Dr Eddy Betterman MD, Available at: https://dreddymd.com/2017/09/22/new-study-reveals-link-between-fluoride-and-adhd/