Recently, headlines everywhere were hollering about the danger of fluoride-free toothpastes. “They won’t stop cavities!” concerned “experts” warned.
Why the sudden interest? A new review of selected previous studies concluded that
Personal oral hygiene in the absence of fluorides has failed to show a benefit in terms of reducing the incidence of dental caries.
However, only three studies involving a total of 743 patients were included, and the quality of evidence wasn’t high.
And beyond that, there’s the simple but critical fact that the modest benefit fluoride may offer is strongly offset by its health risks.
As we’ve noted before, fluoride levels in toothpaste and other products meant to be used topically (on the surface of the teeth) can be quite high. Even accidentally swallowing toothpaste a few times can cause significant exposure, particularly in kids.
It’s also likely that some fluoride is absorbed by the soft tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. Again, the high fluoride levels can mean a significant amount of this toxin circulating to other areas of the body where it may do harm.
Some of the most alarming effects of fluoride are on your nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves. It’s known to be particularly harmful to the developing brains of babies and small children and has been linked to lower IQ and other cognitive deficits.
Fluoride displaces iodine in the thyroid gland, leading to hypothyroidism. This lowers your metabolism, resulting in weight gain, fatigue, cold intolerance, and many other ill effects on your overall health.
Fluoride also damages the pineal gland by causing a buildup of calcium, which interferes with the gland’s role in hormone regulation. This includes the sleep hormone melatonin. Disruptions in melatonin can cause insomnia, depression, and brain aging.
Fluoride has been shown to increase blood glucose levels and impair glucose tolerance, likely by inhibiting insulin production or secretion. Impaired glucose tolerance, often a precursor to type 2 diabetes, has been found to occur in humans with fluoride intakes of only 0.07-0.4 mg/kg/day—a dose that can be reached in areas of “optimally” fluoridated water.
Given the damage that fluoride overexposure can do, we feel it best to avoid it.
It’s still important to brush your teeth to control plaque buildup – with or without toothpaste. Yes, toothpaste isn’t an absolute necessity. The grit it provides helps break up the sticky biofilm that develops on your teeth through the day, but research has shown that most of brushing’s benefit comes from the mechanical action of moving the brush around the surfaces of your teeth.
But the real culprit behind decay is sugar and refined carbohydrates in the diet.
They’re the preferred fuel of acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. Those acids cause your teeth to demineralize – the first step in the decay process.
If and when you do eat foods high in sugar or made with refined flour, make sure you rinse your mouth with water afterwards. (Don’t brush right away, though. Wait about 20 to 30 minutes. That gives your saliva a chance to neutralize the acids. Otherwise, you’re just brushing them into your teeth.)
Also, make sure you eat a nutrient-dense diet based on whole foods. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous, along with the fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K) help your teeth to remineralize naturally, preventing decay from setting in – no fluoride required.