There has been so much debate around fluoride in recent years that it is difficult to know how to make the right choices for yourself and your family.
Is fluoride friend or foe?
Fluoride is both, friend and foe. But let’s make one thing very clear: used correctly, fluoride is your teeth’s best friend. Here is why:
Fluoride Shields your teeth.
Every time you eat or drink, the environment in your mouth becomes more acidic (pH dropping below 7.0). Every time the environment in your mouth becomes more acidic, your teeth suffer. Most beverages are acidic. Some beverages, like a cola or cranberry juice, are extremely acidic with a pH well below 3.0. Every time the pH in you mouth drops below 5.5, you teeth loose some of their mineral content. If there is nothing to rebalance this loss, eventually, you end up with a cavity and enamel erosion. Plus, the cavity causing bacteria living in your mouth, like Streptococcus Mutans, convert the sugars, starches and fermentable carbohydrates in your diet into acid. To make matters even worse, these harmful bacteria love living in acid while many of the healthy bacteria cannot survive in an acidic environment.
When you use a fluoridated toothpaste, the negatively charged fluoride ion adsorbs onto the enamel and from there, it naturally attracts the positively charged calcium and phosphate present in your saliva so the lost minerals return to your teeth. Without fluoride, this process still happens but at a much slower rate. Another added bonus is that the fluoride ion replaces a weak link in the crystal structure of your enamel, making it stronger and more resistant to acid attacks. This means that every time you brush your teeth with a fluoridated tooth paste, you make your teeth a little bit stronger. I clean and strengthen my teeth after each meal and I challenge you to do the same.
Given our 21st century ubiquitous low pH beverages and excessive consumption of sugar that contribute to thriving colonies of cavity causing bacteria ( and outnumbering the healthy bacteria you want to keep), a little bit of help from fluoride is not only welcomed but essential.
The latest recommendations for Community Water Fluoridation in water are for .7 parts per million (ppm).
.7ppm is the equivalent of 1 drop in the fuel tank of your car, less than a drop if you drive a Mini like I do:).
Fluoride works best topically. This means that fluoride works best when it is in direct contact with your teeth, not when it is being absorbed into your body.
IQ: is fluoride friend ore foe?
Studies relating to IQ were done in China, Mongolia and Iran in communities where the water is naturally fluoridated in excess, in some places more than 10 times the recommended dose. However, the conditions under which these studies were conducted were such that the conclusions drawn from them are weak at best.
While Fluoride was added to water systems across USA from the 1940’s to the 1990’s, the IQ scores of Americans increased by 15 points
BONE: is fluoride friend or foe?
Nearly all the dietary fluoride retained by the body is found in the apatitic component of hard tissue mineral: this would be your teeth and your bones…which may be a good thing if your bone density is going downhill.
Thyroid: is fluoride friend or foe?
A recent large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water conducted in England by S. Peckham, D. Lowery and S. Spencer found a positive association between fluoride levels and hypothyroidism. The population size of this study published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal by itself gives it credibility.
Fluorosis: is fluoride friend or foe?
Since the inception of community water fluoridation, the incidence of dental fluorosis has increased both in communities where the water is fluoridated and in communities where no fluoride is added to the water supply.
This means that all these people ingested more than the ideal amount of fluoride while their teeth (and bones) were developing… and if your teeth show signs of change, it is quite possible that your bones do too. This also means that with many different sources of Fluoride (water, toothpaste, supplements, baby formula, mouthwash) it is challenging to deliver the exact dose that will shield the teeth against caries without causing side effects.
So here are some TeethFirst tips to ensure that fluoride is more friend than foe:
- Use fluoride toothpaste for yourself and your children: remember Fluoride works best when applied directly to your teeth.
- Keep fluoride toothpaste out of young children reach. Many children secretly eat toothpaste: I was one of them.
- Dispense the toothpaste yourself until your children can be trusted to dispense the correct amount:
- A grain of rice under 3, a pea size 3 and above.
- Elevate Oral Care offers a metered pump that dispenses the exact amount of paste for children 3 and above.
- If you like to use a mouthwash, make sure to read the label and choose one that contains fluoride (THE MAJORITY DON’T). The use of a mouthwash is not recommended for children under 6.
- Whether you choose to use fluoride or not, you must supervise / assist with your children flossing and brushing until age 6