Have you ever noticed the warning on a tube of toothpaste about the dangers of ingesting fluoride? You may not have – it’s inconspicuous and looks nothing like the brazen warnings that appear on goods such as cigarettes and other tobacco products. But why is it there? Well, besides being a helpful additive that’s been proven to prevent tooth decay, fluoride is also a deadly toxin. When placed in that context, it’s easy to see why some people are ditching the toothpaste containing this supposedly beneficial chemical in favor of fluoride free oral care practices. But don’t be so quick to judge.
Research is divided on the subject, and many (including the federal government) believe the benefits of fluoride far outweigh its dangers. It’s a complicated situation, but, like a toothbrush on plaque, we’ll break it down for you. There are two primary ways fluoride prevents decay. It cripples bacteria in plaque, inhibiting its ability to produce acids that weaken teeth. Fluoride also re-mineralizes areas where acid damage has already occurred. Since it’s a toxin, however, moderation is the key to reaping benefits of fluoride without experiencing a downside. Luckily, the most common result of overdosing on fluoride is nowhere near fatal.
People who receive too much fluoride often wind up with dental fluorosis. This is a permanent discoloration of the teeth and can make your choppers appear spotted or streaked. It happens in varying degrees of severity, depending on how much excess fluoride you take in. however, this is a purely a cosmetic problem, and it has no effect on a person’s health.
A recent study found that two out of every five adolescents in the U.S. have dental fluorosis. As a result of the finding, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that it is lowering the recommended level of fluoride in water supplies nationwide. The recommended changes have been debated for years, as have the chemical’s negative effects. Reputable sources on both sides of the debated make opposing claims – some say there’s no serious downside to fluoride, while others blame the chemical for all sorts of problems; including allergies, lower IQs, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer.
While the effects of fluoride may be disputed, the fact that a lot of people are getting too much of the substance is commonly accepted. In response to the rising rates of dental fluorosis and the growing public demand for products that don’t include the potentially toxic additive; companies have started producing, marketing and selling fluoride free oral care solutions.
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