What are the impacts of adding fluoride to our toothpaste? Our drinking water?

What Is Fluoride?

A naturally occurring mineral in our teeth and bones, fluoride can also be found in the soil, air, water, rocks, and plants.

One of Our Most Prevalent Diseases

Dental cavities may be humanity’s most prevalent disease, affecting 35 percent of the global population. The average number of decayed, missing, and filled teeth has been estimated at more than two—by age 12. In the United States, the oral health of our elderly may also be in a state of decay, with one-fourth of older people missing all their teeth, and sugar consumption is considered the one and only cause of cavities. Other factors—bacteria, plaque, saliva, brushing, and flossing—appear to have only mitigating influences.

We would get the greatest benefit from eliminating our intake of free sugars—that is, added sugars, not those sugars naturally found in breast milk or the intrinsic sugars found in fruit. There does not seem to be a threshold for added sugar intake below which there are no adverse effects. Indeed, an exponential increase in cavity rates for sugar intakes even starting as low as 1 percent.

Fluoride in Our Toothpaste

We can also benefit our teeth every time we brush with a fluoride-containing toothpaste. Fluoride is thought to protect teeth by improving the intrinsic stability of the mineral structure of dental enamel. A recent meta-analysis of nearly 100 randomized controlled trials of fluoride toothpaste involving more than 10,000 people found “high-certainty” evidence that toothpaste containing the typical amount of fluoride reduces tooth decay significantly more than non-fluoride toothpaste in both children and adults.

Fluoride in Our Water

Adding fluoride to drinking water is more controversial. Growing evidence about the adverse effects of fluoride on brain development led to the National Toxicology Program’s draft conclusion that fluoride should now be “presumed to be a cognitive neurodevelopmental hazard to humans.” Out of an abundance of caution, pregnant and breastfeeding women may want to avoid fluoridated water.

Anti-Fluoridationists vs. Pro-Fluoridationists

Ironically, it was the anti-fluoridationists who were accused of their “anti-scientific” attitudes, but now it’s the pro-fluoridationists who may be ignoring evidence that doesn’t conform to their beliefs. How can society get the cavity-preventing benefits of fluoride without the risks? Since the primary risk arises from systemic absorption, yet the primary benefits arise from topical contact with our enamel, we can safely reap the rewards by using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwashes.

For substantiation of any statements of fact from the peer-reviewed medical literature, please see the associated videos below.

Image Credit: Image by Thomas G. from Pixabay. This image has been modified.

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