Like many Americans my age, I grow up with a positive association to fluoride. Toothpaste commercials told me that fluoride helped prevent tooth decay and that I should brush my teeth with fluoride toothpaste, so I used it every day. The dentist gave me fluoride treatments for my teeth. Fluoride was also added to municipal water supplies, so drinking tap water (and anything made with it) cave me a daily dose of fluoride too. Like most other people, I assumed it must be healthy. Otherwise, why would people add it to toothpaste and water?
Many years ago though, I started hearing rumors about fluoride being potentially unhealthy. I realized I'd never looked into fluoride and did not really even know what it was and why I should be consuming it. I had to admit that all my knowledge of fluoride was extremely come from the people who were marketing it. People market abundance of other products that are not healthy (cigarettes, junk food, etc.), so why should I assume fluoride was healthy just because the marketers said it was?
So way back in 1997, I got curious and started taking a deer look into fluoride. Today this is very easy to do because there's plenty of info available online. I'll share some of that info with you and provide some links so you can look into it further if you so choose. My goal is to help you consciously decide whether you wish to continue using fluoride.
What is fluoride?
The substance fluoride is technically a fluorine ion. Fluorine is a gas, and in nature it will be found bonded with other substances, forming compounds such as calcium fluoride.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring substance found abundantly in the earth's crust. Consequently, it is found in natural water supplies, usually in very low levels (well below 1 part per million). Plants naturally absorb fluoride from the soil, so small amounts of fluoride compounds are present in all our food. Fluoride is also commonly used in pesticides, so plant foods grown with pesticides will have a higher concentration of fluoride.
The highest dietary concentration of fluoride occurs in animal foods and in processed foods, especially fish. Fluoride builds up in the tissues of animals. And when fluoridated water is used in food production, fluoride will be concentrated in the final product. The same goes for cooking with fluoridated water.
Although it is a natural substance, fluoride is highly toxic to human beings, even more so than lead. If you were to injest a mere 2-5 grams of sodium fluoride (a common ingredient in toothpaste), you would probably die. The amount of fluoride in a typical tube of fluoride toothpaste is sufficient to kill a small child if it was consumed all at once. Fluoride toothpaste contains a much higher concentration of fluoride than what is found in nature.
In the USA the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates fluoride usage.
Is fluoride necessary for health?
Not remotely. Unlike calcium or magnesium, fluoride is not an essential nutrient for your body. If you were to consume zero fluoride your entire life, you would not suffer for it. There's no such thing as fluoride deficiency.
What is fluoride's purported role in tooth decay?
Fluoride acts as an enzyme inhibitor. For this reason it is believed to help prevent cavities by literally poisoning the bacteria in your mouth. Unfortunately, because fluoride is so toxic, you're taking a big risk by using it to try to prevent cavities. You not only poison the bacteria in your mouth but your other cells as well.
"Fluoride inhibits enzymes that breed acid-producing oral bacterium which acid eats away tooth enamel. This observation is valid, but some scientists now believe that the harmful effect of fluoride on other useful enzymes far outweighs the beneficial effect on caries prevention."
– UNICEF, Dec 1999
Fluoride only works topically. If you swallow fluoride, it will not help your teeth at all except the extent it touches them. So fluoride supplements are utterly worthless.
What are the risks of fluoride consumption?
Aside from the risk of death, fluoride can cause serious problems even at low levels of injury that come from using toothpaste or mouthwash or drinking fluoridated water.
One risk is a condition known as fluorosis, caused by excessive exposure to fluoride. This comes in two kinds: dental fluorosis and skeletal fluorosis. Dental fluorosis occurs at a young age, and the main symptom is discolored and / or pitted teeth, but the outward signs on the teeth are believed to be linked with a defect neurological impairment.
Skeletal fluorosis is an arthritic disease caused by a build-up of fluoride in the bones that can cause the bones to become brittle. Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted that hip fractures are more common in communities that fluoridate their water supply.
Drinking fluoridated water is associated with reduced cognitive ability in children. There are also over 30 animal studies showing that fluoride is a neurotoxin which reduces learning and memory. Essentially, fluoride makes you a bit less intelligent.
If you wish to look into this further, you can find a lengthy list of health problems associated with fluoride and links to some of the research here:
Fluoride Health Effects Database
There are many more health problems than the few I've listed above, including kidney damage and cancer. Fluoride problems are an active area of research. A lot of new information has come out in just the past decade.
Why did people start adding fluoride to toothpaste and water?
You do not want to know. Really you do not.
But if you do, you can start by reading these articles:
Industry and Fluoridation
Fluoride, Teeth, and the Atomic Bomb
And if you really want to hurt yourself, you can read all about the fluoride fraud here:
Suppression of Scientific Dissent on Fluoride's Risks and Benefits
If you do not want to read the above, the bottom line is that fluoride is an industrial pollutant which became a serious problem several decades ago, and this problem was essentially solved by devising ways to feed the stuff to humans. Today it's become a difficult issue that involves big business, large sums of money, the ADA, the FDA, and somewhere near the bottom of the political food chain … health.
What about water fluoridation?
Water fluoridation is common practice in the USA. About 60% of the US water supply is now fluoridated. My city of Las Vegas started fluoridating its water supply a few years ago (in what was apparently something of a political fiasco).
The last time I checked, water fluoridation was banned in Japan, China, India, and most European countries. What's interesting though is that in Europe the levels of tooth decay are no worse than in the USA. In both the US and Europe, the levels of tooth decay have been falling at about the same rate for decades. Fortunately for non-US residents, the politics of fluoride which have infected the US have not exactly infected the rest of world.
The theoretical reason for water fluoridation is that it supposedly helps prevent tooth decay. The problem, however, is that the theory just does not hold true. There's no evidence that water fluoridation helps prevent tooth decay at all. The evidence in fact shows that fluoridation has no effect whatsoever on tooth decay, but fluoridation does cause other health problems such as fluorosis.
"All of the recent large-scale studies on fluoridation and tooth decay show that fluoridation does not reduce tooth decay. Studies from New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and the US have confirmed no difference in decay rates for permanent teeth of residents of fluoridated vs Non-fluoridated communities. " (Source)
"In summary, we hold that fluoridation is an unreasonable risk. That is, the toxicity of fluoride is so great and the purported benefits associated with it are so small – if there are any at all – that requiring every man, woman and child in America to ingest it borders on criminal behavior on the part of Governments. "
– Dr. J. William Hirzy, Senior Vice-President, Headquarters Union, US Environmental Protection Agency, March 26, 2001
"I am quite convinced that water fluoridation, in a not-too-distant future, will be consigned to medical history."
– Dr. Arvid Carlsson, Winner of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine
So what is the health reasons for water fluoridation? There are not any. The real reason for fluoridation is a combination of business and politics. The health claims are largely used to draw attention away from the real reason. In the USA it is not so hard to get fluoridation policies passed in new cities simply by leveraging the previous marketing work that has been done in favor of fluoride. Communities will vote in favor of fluoridation because most of the people doing the voting do not know any better. People will emotionally defend something as true which deep down they never understood.
What about bottled water?
It depends on the source. Most water from natural springs will have on the order of 0.1 ppm fluoride, which is about 10% of the level found in fluoridated municipal water supplies. So with bottled water your exposure to this toxin is greatly reduced.
Be aware that some bottled water delivery companies do fluoridate their water. I called two of them to ask: Sparkletts and Arrowhead. Sparkletts told me they do fluoridate their water. Of course I let them know that I would never be a customer of their as long as they do so. Arrowhead told me they do NOT deliver fluoridated water without the customer specifically requests it. Consquently, I have been an Arrowhead customer for many years. If I find out that they've started fluoridating their water, they will lose my family as a customer.
If you want to know whether or not your water contains fluoride, call the company and ask them how much fluoride is in their water and whether or not they add fluoride to it. They will be able to tell you how many parts per million of fluoride their water contains.
One fluoride-related web site specifically recommended avoiding Trinity Springs water because it contains a very high concentration of fluoride, on the order of 4 ppm. That's about 4x the level you'll get from fluoridated tap water.
You can also use a water filter to reduce fluoride from tap water. In this case you will need a reverse-osmosis filter, which will remove 90% + of the fluoride. Distillation will also remove fluoride from water.
Is there such a thing as non-fluoride toothpaste?
Fluoride is not the ingredient in toothpaste that cleans your teeth. It is the abrasive calcium carbonate that does most of the cleaning. Fluoride's only role is to poison the bacteria (and of course the rest of you gets poisoned in the process). Additionally, commercial toothpastes often contain sweeteners that can actually promote tooth decay.
I can recommend a couple brands of fluoride-free toothpaste which I've been using for years: Nature's Gate and Tom's of Maine. You should be able to find these at any health food store. I buy them at Whole Foods and Wild Oats.
My personal favorite is Nature's Gate Herbal Creme de Peppermint. My wife prefers Tom's of Maine. Tom's of Maine also has children's fluoride-free toothpaste available, which our 5-year old daughter uses. Both of these companies are cruelty-free as well, meaning they do not test any of their products on animals.
These toothpastes are made from all-natural ingredients, and they do not contain extra sweeteners. One thing I like about Tom's of Maine is that they list all the ingredients on the box along with a description of what each thing is and why it's there.
My wife also wrote a short review of Nature's Gate toothpaste on her web site many years ago. One thing she noted was that because of the lack of sugar, it took us a few days to get used to these toothpastes. But after that we never looked back.
What about dentists?
I challenge you to ask your own dentist for detailed information on fluoride. Test his / her knowledge of this subject, and see if the answers you get make you more confident or more doubtful.
Ask your dentist to tell you exactly what fluoride is and what the lethal dosage is. Ask your dentist where the fluoride in their toothpaste and fluoride treatments originally comes from (trust me – you really do not want to know). Ask your dentist how s / he came to believe that fluoride helps prevent tooth decay. Ask your dentist to tell you about the dangers of fluoride exposure. Ask your dentist to tell you where you can obtain the proof that fluoride usage is safe and effective.
Would not you expect your dentist to know this information?
Personally I have never met a dentist who knew even the most basic facts about fluoride. Dentists apparently learn about fluoride from the same people that market it to consumers. Most likely your dentist does not know much more about fluoride than you do besides the information that's been provided to them by marketers. In fact, simply by reading this article, you probably know a lot more about fluoride than your dentist does, except your dentist happens to be exceptional.
What should you do?
I think you should look into this for yourself and make your own conscious decision.
Look beyond the fluoride marketing hype and decide if fluoride is something you want to put into your body on a regular basis. Common sense suggests that you should not ingest such a toxic substance unless you fully understand what you're doing. Remember that you have no diet need for fluoride, so if you have any doubt, leave it out. In my opinion that's the safest bet.
Fluoride is not addictive, so I think you'll find it easy to do without. You may even notice some health benefits in doing so. Who knows? Maybe your IQ will even go up a few points – that effect is certainly conceivable given that fluoride is a neurotoxin and has been linked to reduced IQ in children.
At the very least, doctors recommend not using fluoridated water to make infant formula. Do not give young children any fluoridated water if you can avoid it. Fluoride's toxicity is relative to body mass. So the smaller the person, the more toxic a particular dose will be. Consider nature's example – the level of fluoride found in human breast milk is about 100 times lower than in fluoridated water (ie 0.01 ppm vs. 1.0 ppm).
My perspective is that if you want to convince me to injest a toxic substance on a regular basis, the burden of proof is all yours. By default I'm not going to take poison, so if you can not provide rock-solid evidence that your substance is worth consuming, you will not convince me. And fluoride is a substance where the mountain of evidence has convinced me I'm better off without it.
You do not need to poison yourself just to try to prevent cavities. I hope you can begin to see the insanity in that approach. If you have excessive bacteria eating away your tooth enamel, realize that it's a sign of a greater imbalance in your body. Do not try to correct the imbalance by poisoning the symptoms (ie the bacterial growth). Address the root cause. By reducing the acidity of your diet, you can safely prevent your teeth from dissolving. Especially cut out refined sugar and coffee if you can, and eat more raw fruits and vegetables.
If you are not going to change your diet, at least acknowledge that tooth decay is not the worst health problem in the world. Even if you do get cavities, it's a fixable problem, and in my opinion, it's not worth taking poison to try to prevent one problem and cause yourself far greater grief in the long run. You may miss your teeth, but I think you'll miss your brain, bones, and kidneys even more.
I want to look into this further. Hook me up.
First, you can start with a simple Google search on fluoride or on such terms as "fluoride toxic poison" (without the quotes), and you'll find plenty of sites to look through.
Here are a couple of my favorite fluoride sites with loads of articles, information, and research references:
The Fluoride Debate
Fluoride Action Network
At the very least, I recommend you read the home page of The Fluoride Debate site to give yourself a nice overview. But you will certainly learn a lot by diving deeply into both of these sites.
There are also some books on the subject (you can find both at Amazon):
The Fluoride Deception by Christopher Bryson and Theo Colborn
Fluoride: Drinking Ourselves to Death by Barry Groves
I just can not believe any of this. It's too unbelievable.
I'm sorry to be the one to shatter your blissful fluoride fantasy. Really, I am. I know you'll probably curse me the next time you pick up your toothpaste and see a tube of IQ-lowering poison instead of sugary cavity-fighting bliss.
I'm just the messenger though. I did not invent any of this information. And my goal is not to convince you not to use fluoride. My goal is far more insidious – it is to encourage you to think for yourself and make decisions more consciously, whether you agree with me or not.