When Dominik was around around 3 months old, his first tooth popped in. And so began the pediatrician’s well meaning advice for keeping his teeth healthy. What I was most surprised about was the advice to use fluoride toothpaste in my infant’s mouth. But my instincts told me that this was not something I should be doing to my very small and very young child.
Brushing our teeth is a common and extremely important practice in our modern world particularly because our diet is full of sugar and other cavity causing ingredients. Growing up I was a frequent and loyal tooth brushing machine so I was extremely disappointed with the news I am about to tell you: our big brand toothpastes and even many of our “natural” toothpastes are basically poison.
Conventional toothpastes contain substances such as sodium lauryl sulfate in order to help it foam and scrub off all the junk we’ve been consuming off of our teeth. A quick reminder: SLS’s are considered toxic. It also often contains triclosan which is another toxic substance. It is a listed pesticide that is also endocrine disruptor that poisons both you and the environment in a long list of serious ways. Also in our toothpaste: propylene glycol (affects our brain and nervous system as well as a known irritant), cocamidopropyl bentaine (dangerous substance building up in our environment), and aluminum hydroxide (a neurotoxin and environmental toxin). At least it’s minty fresh!
Now let’s talk about fluoride. Because there is so much controversy over this widely used ingredient, it gets it’s very own section. Most people have come to believe that this element is essential to healthy teeth. But this is not an essential nutrient; we cannot become deficient in fluoride. When we go to the dentist, our teeth are cleaned and then drenched in the stuff to prevent cavities and promote the health of our pearly whites. We have been told by our parents since we had teeth the importance of brushing at least twice a day in order to prevent tooth decay. We even have fluoride in our tap and drinking water for the same reason! However, I’ve got some bad news about it: new evidence is showing that fluoride is probably causing more harm than good.
In the early 20th century, fluoride was used as an insecticide and pesticide because it is almost as poisonous as arsenic. So why is fluoride in our toothpaste? It does help to prevent cavities. It kills the bacteria in our mouths and then helps our teeth to resist the acidity in our mouths that cause tooth decay. It’s goal is essentially to prevent cavities so that we can keep our teeth as long as we can. However, we happen to be brushing our teeth with a known poison; it is even more poisonous than lead. Aside from toxicity, too much fluoride can cause a condition called dental fluorosis which is basically a condition in which teeth are discolored (white spots or black and brown stains). Our obsession with fluoride has caused 41% of American children between ages 12 and 15 to be affected by this condition in some way.
Fluoride is not only found in our toothpaste, it is in the majority of our tap water here in the states. Being the only ingredient to be added to water for a medical purpose, fluoride was added to our water in order to prevent tooth decay. But in recent years, this is showing to have possibly been a huge mistake; there are even organizations dedicated to the dangers of fluoridated water. Around 97% of Western Europe does not have fluoridated tap water and there is no evidence showing a difference in tooth decay between those who do and those who do not have fluoride in the water.
Studies are showing that having fluoride in the water really does not do much in helping our teeth. In fact, we are ingesting obscene amounts of this chemical which can: cause harm to our brains, reduce the function of our thyroids, severely weaken our bones, and cause bone cancer. It is especially dangerous to children, who already swallow most of their toothpaste and should never ever be given to infants. Here’s the kicker: most of the store bought beverages we drink, even bottled water, uses the fluoridated tap water. And this is on top of all the fluoridated products we use in our mouths.
Although fluoride does lend a hand in preventing cavities, studies find that the act of brushing our teeth thoroughly does more to keep teeth healthy because of the friction in removing substances from the surfaces. So instead of more fluoride, we really should be brushing for longer and taking care to floss.
Fortunately, there are plenty of fluoride and chemical free toothpastes on the market. Ingredients such as xylitol are safe and effective. Xylitol is a sweetener that attracts cavity causing bacteria and then starves them which allows for enough time for our teeth to rebuild and heal themselves. CoQ10 helps to strengthen and protect gums from gum disease and is in some natural toothpastes. Also, ingredients like baking soda, salt, and peroxide are all safe cleaning agents that brush away stains and help to strengthen and protect teeth. Coconut oil has been recently shown to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth as well. Other natural toothpastes contain herbs and herbal oils that serve as antimicrobial agents.