Fluoride toothpaste has been the standard-bearer of dental care for decades, but with so many “fluoride free” oral care products now on the market, you might be wondering if fluoride toothpaste is bad for you. The short answer is no—fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, and other products remain an excellent way to keep your teeth healthy and strong. As with any personal hygiene product, there are pros and cons of fluoride toothpaste, and fluoride-free toothpaste as well. Here’s what you need to know:
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a naturally occurring chemical found in small amounts in soil, rocks, water, air, and even some plants. Fluoride is a common ingredient in oral health products like toothpaste and mouthwash, and it is also used in medical imaging scans, as a cleaning agent, and as an additive to steel and aluminum products.
How does fluoride help teeth?
Fluoride prevents tooth decay by slowing the breakdown of tooth enamel, while also “remineralizing” enamel by bonding to decayed areas and attracting strengthening minerals like calcium to help repair tooth damage. The new, harder, stronger enamel that is produced—called fluorapatite—is more resistant to the acids that can cause cavities. Fluoride also features antibacterial properties that inhibit bacterial growth and prevent microbes from sticking to teeth.
Is fluoride safe?
Fluoride is safe for use in toothpaste and mouthwash, and most municipal water districts even add small amounts of fluoride to tap water. However, aside from the trace amounts in tap water, fluoride is not meant to be ingested. The amount present in oral health products can be poisonous if consumed in large quantities, which is why fluoride toothpaste is not typically recommended for children younger than six years old. Swallowing fluoride toothpaste can lead to fluorosis, which interferes with the development of tooth enamel and can result in white streaks on the teeth, and gastrointestinal problems if the amount is large enough. But as long as you spit and rinse normally after brushing your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, you won’t have to worry about fluorosis.
Is fluoride-free toothpaste effective?
Fluoride-free toothpaste is relatively new to the oral health market. It uses natural ingredients like hydrated silica—a mild abrasive that gently cleans the teeth and helps remove stains—cranberry extract, and xylitol, which raises the pH of the mouth to limit bacterial growth. While fluoride-free toothpaste is effective at cleaning your teeth, it is not capable of strengthening the teeth and inhibiting bacterial growth the way toothpastes containing fluoride are.
Still undecided? San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry can help
Using fluoride toothpaste for cavities is one of the best ways to maintain good oral health, but the decision on which dental products to use is best decided between you and your dentist. At San Diego Periodontics and Implant Dentistry, we can help guide you through the abundance of dental product options available so you can make the best choice for your oral health. For more information about fluoride products, dental procedures, or other dental concerns, give us a call at (619) 543-0905.