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For years, fluoride has been presented as the holy grail ingredient for dental health. It is included in toothpaste, mouthwash, applied at dental offices, and even added into many water sources. However, people have recently begun seeking fluoride-free alternatives with concern about the dangers of fluoride.
Fluoride’s popularity resulted from the discovery in the early 1900's that several small U.S. communities that drank from water sources with fluoride (a mineral found in rocks and soil) also had a lower rate of cavities. With this in mind, it became commonplace for fluoride to be added to other U.S. water supplies.
There is one significant distinction to be made here, however. The water in the small communities contained calcium fluoride, which is fluoride in its naturally occurring form. This natural form is very different from the industrial fluoride that public health officials have added into other water supplies.
Even more compelling, a study posted in 2020 found that that short-term exposure to high concentrations of fluoride quickly damages the enamel. An important finding of the study was that chronic exposure to fluoride concentrations several times lower (let that sink in) than the currently approved standards for fluoride content in tap water also caused similar enamel damage. Because of this, it looks like there is no “safe” level of fluoride exposure and the information we have been told by public health authorities on the dental benefits of fluoride may be far from complete.
Further investigation into fluoride has shown there is no significant connection between fluoridated water (even naturally fluoridated) and a lower cavity rate. Instead, studies have shown an alarming correlation between fluoride use and multiple serious health conditions.
Is Fluoride Harmful?
Multiple studies have established a correlation between fluoride use and thyroid dysfunction. Fluoride effectively disables the enzymes in the thyroid, disrupting and decreasing the production of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone). An additional study conducted in India showed that children who consumed high fluoride levels experienced significantly lower levels of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) than their peers who did not. Other evidence shows that hypothyroidism (under-active thyroid) is less likely to develop in people who drink non-fluoridated water.
While its connection to the thyroid is relatively widely known, not as many people are familiar with how fluoride can affect the brain. Since 2006, fluoride has officially been categorized as a developmental neurotoxin, with multiple studies linking it to poor cognitive performance and low IQ.
Studies have indicated that fluoride ingested by the mother can cross the placental barrier and the blood-brain barrier to affect the baby's cognitive function development. Green et al. (2019) found that prenatal exposure to excessive fluoride was associated with children’s lower IQ scores. Additionally, a cross-sectional study in India showed that children’s IQ was affected by fluoride exposure via the mother's drinking water and diet during pregnancy.
An analysis of more than 20 separate studies suggested the IQ points were an average of seven points lower in children exposed to highly fluoridated water.
The relationship between fluoride and the skeletal system is less clear than the two we have already mentioned. Evidence suggests that the best solution when it comes to fluoride and bones is a happy medium. One study conducted on multiple different Chinese populations found that bone fractures occurred more often with higher levels of fluoride. Overexposure to fluoride can also lead to skeletal fluorosis, a condition in which the bones become hard and thick, resulting in stiffness, joint pain, and difficulty moving.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (1993), certain groups of the population may be particularly vulnerable to fluoride's toxic effects. These groups would include the elderly, the diabetics, and those with poor kidney function.
All this to say, fluoride might not be the power-house ingredient we once thought it was.
Fluoride is still a hotly debated topic because there is evidence for its harmful effects and potential benefits. If you are predisposed to or already struggling with thyroid dysfunction, you will likely want to avoid fluoride altogether. If you are not currently suffering from health concerns or thyroid imbalances, avoiding fluoride as a preventative measure could still be beneficial.
The good news is if you are dedicated to a clean, more natural lifestyle, odds are good that you are already avoiding multiple common sources where fluoride is found (such pre-packaged food and drinks and conventional dental products).
The truth is that there are many ways for you to protect, strengthen, and even remineralize your teeth without resorting to potentially toxic ingredients like fluoride. First, be aware of how much your lifestyle and diet affect your health. The modern diet is highly processed and full of sugars, preservatives, and synthetic ingredients. Opting for a diet of whole foods, healthy fats, and vitamins and minerals will help your body do what it was made to do. Avoid any pre-packaged or convenience foods as these are often a source of unwanted fluoride.
Secondly, upgrade your dental routine. Switch out your old toothpaste and mouthwash for clean, non-toxic formulas that will provide you with all the benefits of conventional dental care without the harmful side effects. Making this change may seem daunting, but it is surprisingly easy and doesn’t have to break the budget. In fact, did you know that you can make your own toothpaste at home?
If DIY isn’t quite your style, there are some great fluoride-free products available for purchase. In addition to being fluoride and glycerin-free, Wellnesse Whitening Toothpaste works to reverse existing damage by strengthening and remineralizing the teeth. Instead of flouride and harsh whitening compounds, Wellnesse uses all natural green tea and a biocompatible mineral called hydroxyapatite, which is the same material your teeth are made of. Hydroxyapatite helps stimulate growth in your teeth (called remineralization) and can help your body repair existing cavities and avoid new ones.
With powerhouse ingredients like aloe vera to whiten, green tea to fight bacteria and prevent tooth decay, and hydroxyapatite to restore enamel, the Wellnesse all-natural toothpaste packs a punch unlike any other. So go check it out! Your smile will thank you.
Wells, Katie. (2021, May 29). Is Fluoride Bad for You? Effects for Thyroid and Body. https://wellnessmama.com/377757/fluoride/
Grandjean, P., & Landrigan, P. J. (2014, March). Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418502/
Estimated “Threshold” Doses for Skeletal Fluorosis. (n.d.). http://fluoridealert.org/studies/skeletal_fluorosis04_/
The Untold Story of Fluoridation: Revisiting the Changing Perspectives https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6309358/
Fluoride exposure and intelligence in school-age children: evidence from different windows of exposure susceptibility https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-020-09765-4
How too much fluoride causes defects in tooth enamel