Your dentist uses fluoride for your regular cleanings, and you may see fluoride touted in large letters on the side of your toothpaste. Your city might even put fluoride in your water. You see and hear about this chemical everywhere, but do you know what it does?
Fluoride plays an important role in dental health, mixing with saliva to kill bacteria and strengthen enamel, but fluoride can also harm people in large doses. This potential health risk has led some experts to claim that the dangers of fluoride far outweigh the benefits, so dentists and other professionals should opt for something safer. But studies have shown that fluoride only carries a minimal risk, especially in tiny doses that you put on your toothbrush twice a day. This article will help dispel any misconceptions you might have about the safety and usefulness of fluoride. The Myths Fluoride is a poison, but that doesn’t mean we can’t use it safely. As long as you use it as directed, you won’t see any side effects. Despite this, many experts still worry about its effects on the human body, leading to a few myths and misconceptions: Myth #1: Fluoride causes bone cancer. Scientists have not yet found a link between fluoride and any kind of cancer, much less bone cancer. After looking at fluoride levels in bone, a committee of California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment found that the amount of fluoride had no effect on the frequency of cancer. So, you can rest easy and use fluoride toothpaste without fear—it won’t do anything to mutate your cells. Myth #2: Fluoride causes a harmful condition called fluorosis. Fluoride does cause fluorosis, but this condition doesn’t harm your body in any way. It may harm your self-esteem because it leaves white stripes across your teeth, but it won’t do anything harmful to your body. Fluorosis happens to almost everyone all the time. After drinking a lot of fluoridated water or accidentally swallowing toothpaste, you may notice some discolouration on your teeth. Or, you might not see it at all. Fluorosis normally has subtle effects, so you may not know you have it until your dentist tells you. Myth #3: Children can get fatally or seriously sick after swallowing toothpaste. It depends on the amount of toothpaste, but swallowing a pea-sized amount won’t have any negative effects—only positive ones. Your child would have to swallow four tubes of toothpaste one after another to ingest a lethal dose. And if you had fluoridated water, remember this: toothpaste has 1000 times more fluoride than your water. Your child would have to drink hundreds of litres in one sitting to reach a lethal dose. The Facts about Fluoride Fluoride won’t harm you or your children as long as you don’t treat toothpaste like candy. If you use it as recommended, it’ll give you a lot of benefits instead:
Studies have found that fluoride cuts children’s risk for cavities in half. These same studies also name a lack of fluoride as one of the top three causes of cavities.
Fluoride also cuts adults’ risk for cavities by up to a third.
You’ll save money because you won’t have to pay for fillings, crowns, root canals, and other dental procedures. You’ll only have to worry about dental cleanings.
These benefits only come from using toothpaste. If your city has fluoridated water, you’ll see even better results. Some studies have shown that fluoridated water can boost your dental health up to 33% when used in conjunction with toothpaste. So if you want to have a full, healthy, beautiful smile for many years to come, you should continue to use fluoride toothpaste and drink fluoridated water. Not all brands of toothpaste contain enough of this chemical, so make sure you read the box before purchasing. The Unusual Cases In some cases, you or your children may develop a hypersensitivity to fluoride, but don’t mistake this condition for fluoride poisoning. Hypersensitivity means that your body has an autoimmune response to fluoride, so you’ll break out in hives or eczema, or you’ll experience stomach aches, headaches, and tiredness. You could see this kind of reaction even with small doses of fluoride. If this happens, contact your dentist and discuss your options. You may have to stop using fluoride for a while, which means you’ll have to brush and floss more vigorously than ever to make up the difference. Fluoride gives you an incredible boost when you want to keep your mouth healthy, but it does come with potential side effects. Just remember to use it as directed, and don’t forget to report any sensitivity to your dentist. He or she will avoid using fluoride in your cleanings, and your dentist can help you find a toothpaste that’ll still protect your teeth despite the lack of fluoride.