Fluoride-Free Toothpaste: Natural or Ineffective?
With consumers becoming more aware of the ingredients in the products they use, fluoride-free toothpaste has risen in popularity as a more “natural” oral health alternative. This phenomenon came about largely due to general increased awareness that fluoride is an additive ingredient to toothpaste. From there, misinformation began to spread about the origins, and side effects, associated with fluoride. If you are considering going the more natural route with your oral health care, you should consider all the facts of fluoride-free toothpaste.
Purpose of Fluoride
The truth is that fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, much like iron and calcium. Fluoride has been scientifically proven to strengthen enamel and protect teeth against decay and cavities since its discovery in Colorado in the early 1900s. Without the added protection of fluoride, tooth enamel has no added defense against bacterial attacks. Fluoride is especially beneficial for children as their adult teeth develop and erupt. Fluoride is added to drinking water, toothpaste, and can even be applied as a varnish treatment at your dentist’s office.
Why Do People Seek Out Fluoride-Free Toothpaste?
In recent years, there has been a growing concern among Americans about incorporating natural and organic foods and products into their routines. In 2016, sales of organic food reached $43 billion, higher than ever before. The public is becoming more informed about the dangers of pesticides, and Americans are seeking out more natural alternatives in both food and health products. Unfortunately, that well-meaning intent has spread to toothpaste and resulted in a campaign against fluoride and other additives.
What You Should Look For In A Toothpaste?
Commercial toothpastes are specially formulated with a variety of ingredients in addition to fluoride to support optimal oral health. Whenever you shop for toothpaste, you should first look to ensure that the label carries the ADA Seal of Approval. This seal is issued by the American Dental Association, and it means that toothpaste is approved for safety and effectiveness. One of the guidelines for the ADA Seal of Approval is that the toothpaste contains fluoride. This is because of the ADA fully supports the fact that fluoride is crucial for a healthy mouth. Some of the other toothpaste ingredients that support optimal oral health, and are commonly found in most ADA approved toothpastes include:
- Potassium Nitrate - A desensitizing agent that helps those who suffer from sensitive teeth.
- Triclosan - A common antimicrobial ingredient in toothpaste that reduces gingivitis and tartar.
- Zinc Citrate - Another antimicrobial ingredient that works with triclosan to protect against tartar.
- Detergents or Sulfates - Foaming agents that may include sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium lauroyl sarcosinate.
- Abrasives - Calcium carbonate, hydrated aluminum oxides, dehydrated silica gels, magnesium carbonate, silicates, and phosphate salts are all abrasives that help remove debris and bacteria from the teeth. They also help to whiten teeth by removing surface stains.
What To Do If You Think You Are Sensitive To Your Toothpaste
While many Americans seek fluoride-free toothpaste because they want to use more natural health products, there is another common reason - sensitivity. For some people, certain toothpastes or ingredients in toothpaste may cause skin rashes, like perioral dermatitis, mouth ulcers, or other uncomfortable symptoms. Some may chalk it up to side effects of fluoride or a fluoride allergy, but the true culprit in most cases is SLS.
Sodium lauryl sulfate, known as SLS, is commonly added to toothpastes to help cause foaming while you brush your teeth. For many, this sulfate can be irritating to their gums, tongue, and skin around the mouth. While most people think that fluoride is the reason for their irritation, SLS has a notorious track record for being irritating to oral tissues. In fact, a study found when mouth ulcer sufferers stopped using SLS free toothpaste, there was a 60% decrease in their symptoms. If you think that you are sensitive to toothpaste, try switching to SLS free toothpaste.
While it may sound appealing to use a completely natural toothpaste, your oral health could suffer. The effectiveness of fluoride has been researched and proven for decades, and your toothpaste should contain this mineral for a healthy smile. If you are concerned about the ingredients in your toothpaste, talk with your dentist at your next dentist appointment to get their recommendations on toothpastes that will still support your oral health and meet your concerns.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.