Ah, those pearly whites. We brush, we floss, we visit the dentist. All for shimmering chompers and healthy gums. The science is clear: healthy teeth and gums are a direct reflection of the health of the rest of the body. So to stave off gingivitis and cavities, we do what we have to to maintain oral equilibrium. I would venture to bet that when you were a youngster, and you hopped into the over-sized dentist chair, mouth open wide and eyes blinded by the light looming over your head, you often received a fluoride treatment. And of course, why wouldn’t you? Fluoride builds strong teeth, right? And I bet you still brush with a toothpaste that contains fluoride, too? Maybe even a mouth rinse? All because we’ve been taught over and over again that it is VITAL for the health and strength of our teeth.
Perhaps its time to take a look at the lore behind fluoride and see how important it really is to supplement with it in toothpastes and rinses. You may be getting far more fluoride than you bargained for…
Let’s take a look:
Not only is fluoride found in the toothpaste you use everyday to stave off cavities, but since the 1940′s it can also be found in your drinking water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2006, 61.5 percent of American’s were drinking fluoridated water. While all other additives in drinking water are present to treat and purify the water, fluoride is the only one added for medicinal purposes.
The problem with this is multi-fold. First, ingesting synthesized fluoride (read: lab-produced rather than naturally occurring) has minimal impact on the oral environment. Rather, it is topical application that promotes dental health. So the levels found in everyday drinking water do very little in the way of fluoride supplementation. Instead, once ingested excess fluoride consumption has been linked to depression, weight gain, lessened intellectual capacity, and heart disease. The majority of these side effects, however, tend to be the ones that effect intellectual ability. Human studies conducted in several countries, including China and India, have verified the claim that excess fluoride leads to diminished intelligence and impaired development. Ingested fluoride has also been found by the U.S. National Research Council to effect endocrine function, which can contribute to disorders of the thyroid.
The use of fluoride-containing rinses and pastes in addition to the drinking water then compounds this supplementation, leading to unhealthy levels of ingestion and the risk of any of these side effects and possible fluoride poisoning. Children are especially vulnerable to this, as their smaller bodies can’t handle as much fluoride. In addition, the fundamental growth occurring at younger ages makes the risk of intellectual damage that much greater. Yikes!
But relax! There is an easy solution. Switch to rinses and toothpastes that do not contain fluoride: Tom’s of Maine has several varieties (though they are not ALL fluoride-free), VitaMyr, Jason’s, etc. And as far as tap water is concerned, a standard carbon filter (either on the tap or in a pitcher) will do the trick!
And because fluoride is a natural compound, it is often found in produce and other foods that obtain their nutrients from the ground. With a varied, healthy diet, all that is needed for healthy teeth should be supplied by your food! So eat up and be well!