Is Fluoride Toothpaste Safe? Are “Natural” Toothpastes Effective?
The dental aisle at the drugstore or grocery store can be overwhelming, even for a dentist! There must be 30-40 types of traditional toothpastes to choose from, and several “natural” fluoride-free toothpastes without fluoride. So which type of toothpaste – fluoride or “natural” – is more beneficial? And is fluoride toothpaste safe?
Which type of toothpaste is most beneficial?
The single most important part of brushing is mechanically removing the plaque from your teeth.
The two most important benefits of over-the-counter toothpastes:
(1) make teeth less vulnerable to decay – which is due to fluoride content, and
(2) make your mouth feel fresh with the use of various flavors.
Fluoride containing toothpastes offer both of the above benefits, but “natural” fluoride-free toothpastes only offer the latter.
Fluoride fights the first stage of tooth decay, which is the demineralization process. If you already have demineralization (but have not yet developed a cavity), the fluoride also helps remineralize it and prevent dental cavities.
Okay, so fluoride toothpastes help prevent decay… But is it safe?
Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in soil, water, and foods. It is also produced synthetically for use in drinking water and toothpastes to prevent tooth decay
It is true that too much fluoride can have deleterious effects, particularly for younger children. Ingesting too much fluoride can be detrimental to teeth and cause fluorosis. Fluorosis is a permanent tooth discoloration that happens during the tooth-forming years. This leaves white spots/streaks and, in severe forms, it can lead to dark spots on teeth as a result of excessive fluoride. We recommend that you do not use fluoride toothpaste for infants under the age of one. For young children, we recommend that you use a very amount of fluoride toothpaste – less than the size of a pea. Excessive fluoride ingestion in young children has been associated with upset stomach and a rash around the mouth (called perioral dermatitis). We encourage parents to educate children not to swallow toothpaste.
At Smile Studios, Dr. Subherwal recommends brushing with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day. However, we do recommend one only need a pea-size amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush, especially for children. For some people that are at a higher risk of tooth decay, we recommend a prescription fluoride toothpaste with a higher fluoride concentration in order minimize the incidence of dental cavities.