How much thought do you put into the toothpaste you use? When it comes to picking one from the shelves, the majority of us probably go little further than whether we want to add whitening benefits to the mix or protect our sensitive gums. But should we be putting more thought into the fluoride versus fluoride-free toothpaste debate?According to the experts, maybe.
While there’s still plenty of professional backing for including fluoride in toothpaste—it’s long been considered the key ingredient in preventing tooth decay—the backlash has indeed begun.
Holistic health practitioners have advocated natural and fluoride-free toothpastes for years, advising that, just like organic foods and skincare, fewer chemicals come with far fewer health concerns. For the free-from supporters, fluoride and sodium lauryl sulphate (the foaming agent that’s also present in soaps and shampoos, often linked to allergies) have been two key toothpaste ingredients to avoid.
More scientific research is needed to establish the long-term effects that fluoride could be having on our health, though concerns have been piqued by The Lancet’s official classification of the mineral as a neurotoxin (arsenic, lead and mercury also fall into this category).
So is it time to explore the alternatives? Happily, natural toothpastes are currently enjoying a serious moment thanks to improved formulas and innovative new brands.
Need the low-down? We’ve consulted Harley Street dentist Dr. Giacomo Favero to help us take a look at all the reasons natural toothpastes are now a better option than ever.
Scroll down for our pick of the best natural and fluoride-free toothpastes, plus the fluoride-free low-down from Dr. Favero.
Experts are yet to agree on the “right” amount of fluoride. Research is still very much ongoing, advises Dr. Favero, but the debate on how much fluoride is the right amount of fluoride is yet to be settled. “The harmful effects of fluoride have been linked to the brain, our bones, the endocrine system (our hormone glands) and our blood sugar levels,” he explains, though more studies are needed before these potential concerns can be considered conclusive.
Our bodies already get fluoride through food and water. Since fluoride occurs naturally in some foods and water sources (although at a low level), if you’re worried about the effects too much of the mineral may be having, then switching your toothpaste won’t necessarily mean you don’t get any of the benefits. Additional fluoride is added to many local water supplies too, in the hope that a low dosage will people help to stave off cavities.
Too much fluoride can actually lead to discolouration. “Fluoride has been proven to be a great protector of teeth—it breaks down the bacterias that cause tooth decay and helps to remineralise damaged teeth,” explains Dr. Favero. “But too much fluoride can lead to conditions such as dental fluorosis, which is a permanent discolouration of the teeth. It can leave your pearly whites looking almost spotted or streaked. This can occur in varying degrees of severity, depending on how much excess fluoride you have consumed.”
Fluoride could be behind your skin problems. "Fluoride has the potential to cause acne-like eruptions as a possible side effect, although not common,” explains dermatologist Dr. Stefanie Williams. "‘Normal’ acne is not caused by fluoride (it's caused by a mix of hormonal imbalances, certain bacteria, clogging in the pores and inflammation tendency)."
Facialist Debbie Thomas agrees, “there does appear to be a link between peri oral Dermatitis and fluoride, this looks like little red spots around the mouth.”
Natural toothpaste formulas have undergone an overhaul. Along with the boom in organic food and skincare markets, free-from toothpaste formulas have come a long way too. “Good alternative ingredients to look for include neem, coconut oil, oregano oil and sage,” advises Dr. Favero. Salt, aloe vera and fennel are also popular ingredients in fluoride-free toothpastes, thanks to their natural antibacterial properties.
Swallowing fluoride-free toothpaste foam isn’t a problem. The majority of concerns surrounding fluoride currently hinge on how much of the mineral finds its way into our bodies. “Bigger health concerns come when we swallow the fluoride contained in dental products like toothpaste,” notes Dr. Favero. With fluoride-free and natural options, however, that’s just not a problem.
Are you considering going fluoride-free? Tell us below.
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