Every so many years, a new boogeyman comes along to haunt the medical community. A long-used product or chemical will suddenly be cast with suspicion, and people abandon it in droves.
Sometimes, this is legit. Just take a look at mercury. Once upon a time, we ingested it as an aphrodisiac and medicinal cure; now, we know that it can kill you. When you know better, you do better.
But sometimes, these boogeymen are innocent, victims of misinterpreted research or a misunderstanding about dosages or methods of use.
Fluoride: Victim or Culprit?
Fluoride has been the en-vogue boogeyman for a while now. Word got out about some negative effects associated with it and suddenly, fluoride-free toothpastes crowded the market and people began campaigning to get the chemical removed from their municipal water supplies.
Here's the thing about any enduring myth: there's a grain of truth inside it. Fluoride can be incredibly harmful, causing damage to the skeletal system and increasing the risk of developing certain kinds of cancers—if you ingest too much of it.
The amount in your water supply? It isn't enough to cause damage. As for you your toothpaste, just don't swallow it. That's why children's training toothpastes don't contain fluoride.
So, victim or culprit? We think fluoride is just misunderstood.
Why Fluoride Is Used
You might be wondering why we keep using fluoride if it worries so many people. To understand, let's dig into its history a bit.
Fluoride is a relatively new discovery, with research on it not starting until 1901. At this time, scientists realized that it was part of the natural water supply in certain communities and made an interesting connection: people living in communities where fluoride was naturally present in their water experienced significantly less tooth decay than those in communities without it.
Once these observations were made, scientists began studying it in earnest, realizing that it remineralizes the enamel of the teeth. Soon after, it was added to toothpastes, used in dental treatments, and added to water supplies.
Should You Embrace Fluoride?
I believe that when used at safe levels, fluoride has an important role to play in our oral healthcare routines. However, if the idea of using it makes you uncomfortable, you can bypass it as long as you use products that remineralize the enamel.
What are the alternatives? My suggestion is real nano-hydroxyapatite. It has been clinically proven to remineralize tooth enamel at the same level as fluoride while being safe to use. While it isn't as easy to find in toothpaste as fluoride, it offers the same benefits with additional peace of mind.
Remember: take care of your teeth, and your teeth will take care of you.
--Dr. Jen, DDS, MS