You know us—we really like to stay focused on solutions to help you navigate to greater oral health. Goodness knows there is plenty in this industry to ‘cry foul’ about, but that’s not our style.
That’s why we avoid writing lots of articles that simply identify problems.
We prefer to share solutions to problems instead of simply introducing more problems (and stress) into your life.
However, given our recent article exploring how to stop cavities and reverse tooth decay, it’s time to quickly dive into dentistry’s nasty little F-word.
We’re talking about fluoride, of course.
After all, for many generations, we have been taught that fluoride is the ‘go-to’ solution to stop tooth decay and support remineralization, right?
The issue around fluoride’s safety is a hot and controversial topic. There are many pieces to unpack in this discussion, so let’s jump in.
Going beyond the simplistic question, ‘Is fluoride safe?’
The type of question we ask often determines the quality of information that we receive.
In this discussion, asking whether it’s safe to use fluoride only adds to the confusion.
Both sides of the argument have very well-researched data to back their claims, with experts who are willing to state that they are ‘right’. So it’s not even really possible to answer the simplistic question of, ‘is it safe?’.
Instead, let’s take a look at the research and walk through our simple, two-step process to ‘test’ the risks vs. benefits of any product that is going to be used in the mouth.
We first introduced this process in our free video tutorial course, 5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth.
The process involves answering two simple questions:
- What is the impact of this product/ingredient in the mouth?
- What is the impact of this product/ingredient ‘downstream’ in the rest of the body?
Before we begin walking through these questions with fluoride, it’s important to note that we can’t put something into our mouth and then just spit and rinse to avoid absorbing it into our body.
In other words, anything we put into our mouth is going to be absorbed by our cheek and gum tissue and wind up in the rest of our body.
For example, think of medicines or homeopathic remedies that are absorbed by placing the pill under the tongue.
With that in place, let’s walk through this two-step process with a focus on fluoride.
The benefits and risks of using fluoride in the mouth
According to the Center for Disease Control, fluoride helps reduce the risk of tooth decay in three ways. It:
- Enhances remineralization of weakened regions on our teeth before they evolve into what we know as a ‘cavity’.
- Inhibits further demineralization to resist future decay.
- Destroys the enzymes of bacteria that are responsible for tooth decay.
Here’s a link to download the CDC report yourself.
To understand how fluoride works, let’s recall our recent article, ‘How Teeth Decay’, in which we introduced the mineral compound that our teeth are made of: hydroxyapatite.
Hydroxyapatite is a compound of calcium and phosphorus with a bit of hydrogen and oxygen. For those of you who think nostalgically about your old high school chemistry class, the formula is Ca10(PO4)6(OH)2.
When fluoride is applied topically to our teeth, it helps form a similar compound called ‘fluor-apatite’ (also called ‘fluoroapatite’). In this similar compound, the fluoride ‘fills the need’ for the (OH)2 that’s in hydroxyapatite.
Research shows that fluor-apatite is harder than hydroxyapatite, and it does resist decay a bit better than our natural tooth material.
However, experts who speak against the use of fluoride point out that harder-than-natural teeth aren’t necessarily better.
Our friend and mentor, Dr. David Kennedy, shared with us his concern that regular use of fluoride may cause the outer enamel to be more brittle, and therefore more vulnerable to tooth fractures.
How does fluoride impact the whole body?
This is where the research gets pretty nasty.
The prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, published an article that classified fluoride as a neurotoxin. The research, titled Neurobehavioural Effects of Developmental Toxicity, suggests that children are more at risk than adults for brain damage from fluoride exposure.
To add to the evidence, a Harvard study showed a connection between fluoride and lower IQ in children. Also, it’s been shown that fluoride crosses the placenta into a developing baby’s fragile system.
And it’s not just the brain that is negatively impacted by fluoride. Several studies show an increased risk to the thyroid gland, which can directly undermine our metabolic function.
Once the metabolism gets knocked out of its normal functioning range, this can cause all sorts of other systems to down-regulate. None of this leads to a healthier, more vital life.
In other words, ‘downstream’ in the body, fluoride has no benefit, and the potential consequences that it can have are pretty substantial.
What about water fluoridation?
We have to choose our words carefully when discussing water fluoridation.
We do not in any way support this program. Protecting clean water is extremely important for us as a global culture, and we see no positive outcome from water fluoridation.
The research behind the proposed benefits of water fluoridation is full of holes. Truly, it is a very dark story that we choose to not focus on.
If we lived in a municipality that fluoridated its water supply, we would move, drill a well, or get a really, really good home water filtration system.
A filtration system for drinking water is good, but fluoride is pretty tough on filters, so they’ll need to be replaced regularly. To add insult to injury, we can absorb fluoride through our skin by showering in fluoridated water, so an entire home filter system is best.
Our holistic conclusion
If fluoride were the only compound on the planet that helped us resist decay and remineralize our teeth, we would have to reassess whether the benefits outweigh the risks.
However, there are other ways we can make our teeth very resistant to decay and even remineralize some cavities. We don’t have to introduce a compound that’s so widely recognized as a toxin in order to achieve our desired result of a cavity-free life.
We choose to apply the ‘precautionary principle’ toward fluoride: better safe than sorry. For us, the risks are greater than the benefits when it comes to using fluoride in the mouth.
Want to take a deeper dive on how to stop tooth decay in your home? Download our FREE e-book, “How to stop tooth decay and remineralize your teeth”.
So, as we wrap up this deep dive into dentistry’s nasty little F-word, it really comes back to your own value judgment of the risks vs. benefits.
We hope this article has provided you with helpful information to assist you as you decide whether using fluoride is a wise choice for you and your loved ones.
Feel free to check out the final entry in this series: Putting together the pieces to reverse tooth decay and remineralize cavities.
Helpful, Related Resources:
How to stop tooth decay and remineralize cavities [article]
How teeth decay (part 2 of how to stop tooth decay) [article]
The ‘perfect storm’ for decay (part 3 of how to stop tooth decay) [article]
How to Tell if Your Oral Hygiene Products are Holistic or Not [article]
5 Steps to a Healthy Mouth [[free video tutorial course]]
How to reverse tooth decay with diet (part 4 of how to stop tooth decay) [article]
HealThy Mouth Blend [product solution]
Shine Remineralizing Tooth Whitening Powder [product solution]
How to Stop Tooth Decay and Remineralize Your Teeth [free ebook]
Putting together the pieces to reverse tooth decay and remineralize cavities [article]
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2001). Recommendations for using fluoride to prevent and control dental caries in the United States. Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Review 50(RR14):1-42.
- Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24556010?dopt=Abstract
- Developmental Fluoride Neurotoxicity: Choi et al. Respond: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3621205/