Many people are searching for fluoride free toothpastes, and these people understand the benefits of fluoride as well as they understand the risks. They want to avoid excessive consumption of fluoride, but they don’t want to be left with weak and cavity ridden teeth. You’re ready to ditch the fluoride, but what comes next?
Fluoride has been the “it” girl in the dental industry for years. It’s the default answer to every dental health question, so much so that many people are utterly unaware of how many alternatives to fluoride are readily available. Learning what fluoride does, how it works, and what your teeth need can help you find a fluoride free toothpaste that will keep your mouth healthy and your enamel strong.
What is Fluoride?
Many all natural toothpastes contain fluoride because fluoride is completely natural. It’s a chemical compound derived from the mineral fluorine. Fluorine is in just about everything. The planet’s sublayers contain significant amounts of fluorine. You’ll find it inside of rocks, in the dirt, and even in plants that carry it up through their roots. Your bones and teeth also contain fluorine within their structure.
Some foods and drinks grown from the earth are better at wicking up fluoride than others. Potatoes, grapes, and anything made with grapes (like wine, raisins, or grape juice) are likely to contain fluoride. Coffee, tea, and some shellfish also retain fluoride from water. Many countries, including the United States, add trace amounts of fluoride to the public water supply. Any foods prepared with tap water (like instant oatmeal, instant rice, condensed soup, boiled pasta, or boiled vegetables) will also contain fluoride they’ve retained from the water.
What Does Fluoride Do?
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in your teeth and bones, and its particles are small enough for it to enter your teeth and bones. When it gets there, the bones and teeth know what to do with it. They use fluoride to repair, strengthen, and fortify their structures.
That’s why fluoride developed a reputation as a dental panacea. It can strengthen enamel, slow or reverse signs of tooth decay, and prevent cavities. Fluoride gets right to work patching up the nooks and crannies that bacteria might otherwise be able to enter and worsen. It seals off the weak spots and rebuilds them stronger than they were before.
Do We Need Fluoride?
Based on its impressive healing power, it’s hard to imagine that we wouldn’t need fluoride. It seems to solve a whole host of problems and prevent new ones from occurring. Whether or not you need fluoride can be up for debate, and it largely depends on your current state of oral health.
There are some circumstances under which medical professionals may deem fluoride to be absolutely necessary. In cases of significantly weakened teeth, dentists may prescribe high strength fluoride rinses to help fortify what little enamel remains. If you have a history of cavities or brittle, broken teeth, your dentist may also prescribe you fluoride based products.
As powerful as fluoride is, it cannot strengthen enamel that simply does not exist anymore. It is not a useful solution for people who have already experienced extensive tooth decay.
People with enamel damaged beyond a repairable point will most likely require tooth extractions, crowns, implants, veneers, or full dentures.
For average dental health needs, fluoridated products may not be necessary. Since it’s already in tap water, many plants and animals we eat or drink, and foods we prepare with tap water, you’re already getting a decent amount of fluoride in your day to day life. Adding more through toothpaste or mouthwash may not be necessary unless your dentist requires it of you.
Is Fluoride Safe?
Think of something perfectly safe, nutritious, and healthy. Think about apples. One a day is supposed to “keep the doctor away”. They’re a ubiquitous symbol for health. Some fast food restaurants offer them as a healthy alternative to french fries in their meals for children. Everything about an apple seems perfectly safe and healthy. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Apple seeds contain small amounts of a compound that releases a deadly poison called cyanide into the bloodstream. If you accidentally ingest a few apple seeds, there’s no need to panic. It would take about 150 apple seeds to accumulate enough cyanide to kill the average adult.
The same goes for the formaldehyde that naturally occurs in pears, and the arsenic in rice. Many healthy foods contain trace amounts of poisons that are harmless in small amounts. A concentrated source of apple seeds may not kill you, but it will undoubtedly make you very sick. The same goes for fluoride.
Since fluoride naturally occurs in soil, many people who rely on groundwater for cooking, drinking, and bathing are often exposed to high levels of fluoride. These people may develop conditions like skeletal fluorosis, a condition where the bones and tendons harden to the point of becoming almost immovable.
If you live in a country where you have access to clean water on tap, you probably won’t be exposed to enough fluoride to cause conditions like skeletal fluorosis. If you’re not sure how much fluoride you’re really getting through your water and your diet, it might be a good idea to rely on products that introduce even more fluoride into your system.
How Can I Prevent Cavities Without Fluoride?
Cavities and tooth erosion are caused by bacteria excreting on your teeth. Bacteria create a slimy film called a matrix that covers the surface of your teeth. Anytime you feed them something they like, primarily sugar or carbohydrates, they eat it up right away. It rapidly passes through their systems and creates a very strong acid that eats away enamel, potentially causing holes in your teeth as the matrix locks it in.
Fluoride works to prevent cavities by replacing the minerals that are eroded away during this process. Brushing your teeth thoroughly twice a day with a toothpaste that contains a safe and natural antibacterial agent and using a remineralizing toothpaste can achieve the same effect.
Remineralizing Your Teeth with Fluoride Alternatives
Even if you’ve taken very good care of your teeth throughout your life, there’s still a significant chance that your enamel has eroded to some degree. Almost everything we eat or drink contains sugars, acids, or both. It’s nearly impossible to avoid everything that can potentially damage enamel. As a result, it begins to thin with time. It thins faster for people who haven’t always taken the best care of their teeth.
Bacteria in your mouth are inevitable. You have to eat, and all food introduces bacteria into your mouth. Even if they don’t hang out for too long, they’re still releasing byproducts into that sticky matrix that can eat away at your enamel.
You can replace the minerals your teeth lost with a remineralizing toothpaste. Some naturally occurring minerals, like those found in coral, perfectly mimic the calcium compounds and trace minerals your tooth needs to repair itself. Brushing those minerals into your teeth can help to trap them in porous parts of your enamel, fortifying your teeth against attacks by bacterial invaders.
Your body will never make more enamel on its own. When it’s gone, it’s gone. You can only protect what you have and hope it lasts you. Using a remineralizing toothpaste twice a day will assure that your teeth are never going without the things they need. This can prevent tooth decay, erosion, or tooth sensitivity down the road.
Fluoride Alternatives in Your Diet
In addition to proper dental practices like flossing, brushing with a remineralizing toothpaste that kills bacteria, and using mouthwash, a great deal of your dental health comes from within. Your body constantly needs vital vitamins and nutrients to repair itself and function properly. Great dental health comes from avoiding bad foods (like unnecessary sugars and acids) and incorporating good foods.
Incorporating vitamins and minerals into your diet will help to keep your mouth healthy. We all know calcium and vitamin D are two important building blocks for our teeth and bones. Phosphorous, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K all play crucial roles in oral health.
Leafy greens, low fat dairy, and fish are all excellent sources of these vitamins and nutrients. Most balanced healthy meals with lean proteins and lots of green vegetables will provide your body with many of the nutrients it needs to repair itself and reach a state of greater health.
There’s no real way to completely eliminate fluoride from your life. Most of the things you eat and drink are going to contain at least small amounts of fluoride. You can, however, remove it from your toothpaste. As long as the toothpaste you’re using contains plenty of calcium and replenishing minerals, it’s accomplishing the same end goal as fluoride.
Source 1 - fluoride in food
Source 2 - poison in fruit
Source 3 - vitamins from leafy greens