For decades now, it has been ingrained within the collective mindset that fluoride is a necessary component for healthy teeth. A large part of this conditioning came from cunning advertising campaigns by toothpaste companies, which conditioned us to perceive fluoride as a beneficial and desirable substance. However, it wasn’t always like this. Toothpaste was initially made without fluoride. It wasn’t until the 1970s when companies began to add fluoride to their toothpaste routinely. By the 1980s, consumers were following their dentist’s orders and making sure that their brand of toothpaste contained fluoride.
It, therefore, goes without saying that for most people, toothpaste or water without fluoride is unthinkable and considered as a disservice to our oral health. However, as the famous question goes: What if everything you knew about something was wrong? What if there is a whole other story to fluoride that is only recently being told in its truest and fullest extent? A story, which unveils that not only is fluoride not necessary in toothpaste and water, and its benefits are questionable, but also that it can be harmful. This is what the purpose of this article is - to explore and explain why an increasing number of people today are opting out of using any fluoridated products and avoiding them at all costs.
What Is Fluoride?
Chemically, fluorine is the ninth element in the periodic table, and it is in the same family as chlorine, bromine, and iodine. This chemical family of elements is called the halogens, and they are non-metallic and salt-forming elements. Halogens are highly reactive, and as such, can be harmful or lethal to biological organisms in certain quantities. Fluorine is one of the most reactive elements in existence and is a corrosive and highly toxic gas. Likewise, the toxicity of chlorine is also widely known and controversial in itself as an additive to water. Of course, there is no doubt that the halogens have some properties that have proven to be beneficial for our society, but it all comes down to using them in consciously responsible ways, which thus far we haven’t entirely.
Aside from the properties they have on their own, when elements bond with other elements to become compounds, their properties typically change drastically. Some go from being harmless elements to harmful compounds, while others go from being harmful elements to being harmless compounds. In this sense, the toxicity of fluorine also depends very much on what it bonds with; the new compound will determine how it will act within a system and what purpose it will serve.
Fluoride is formed when fluorine gains one extra negative charge, called an electron. In standard toothpaste and some municipal water supplies, fluoride exists as sodium fluoride (NaF), where fluorine (F) pairs with sodium (Na). We are always naturally exposed to small amounts of most elements and many compounds just by living and existing on Earth. These are found in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, even before there is any human alteration of these. In natural amounts, many elements and compounds are not only beneficial, but some are also essential for the proper functioning of our human body. For example, consider magnesium (Mg) or the salt sodium chloride (NaCl). The problems arise when there is an unnatural influx of any given element or chemical compound in the human body and exposure to these substances in problematic amounts.
The controversial practice of adding sodium fluoride to water has been debated since the time of its inception around the 1940s. Water fluoridation is mostly to blame for the widespread promotion and adoption of fluoridated toothpaste, although the two areas tend to fuel each other. While the field of artificially added fluoride to these products is full of conflicting research and self-serving conflicts of interest, what we do know today for sure is that fluoride’s adverse effects depend on total fluoride dosage from all sources and will also vary from person to person. Therefore, even if a person cannot eliminate all the sources of synthetically-added fluoride in their life, a conscious reduction can make all the difference to our health and wellbeing.
It is also valuable to note here that the story one gets about fluoride depends on where one lives. Consider these statistics: Water fluoridation is supplied to about 66% of US residents, 38% of Canadian residents, and 3% of European residents. Latin American countries, on the other hand, typically do not add fluoride to their water at all, but instead, add fluoride to their table salt. This means that perceptions about benefits and risks of fluoride will vary drastically by geographical area depending on how its people are educated and influenced. However, there is another interesting observation that some will quickly see in those numbers. Europe, in general, has always been leading the way by being much more conscious and effective at protecting human health and the environment by banning numerous substances from agricultural, food and beverage, and personal care use compared to the United States. The latter expresses an almost entirely opposite approach to how it approves and regulates dangerous and risky substances, which shouldn’t surprise us given the extreme stronghold corporations have over the country’s policies. Every action to reduce, remove, or improve the use and transparency of risky or dangerous substances are resisted and fought against vehemently. This includes numerous food additives, pesticides, drugs, GMOs, and other chemical substances. This, alone, should make one approach any US-based sources that promote and push fluoride in its various forms with caution and greater discernment.
The Myths and Dangers of Fluoride
The most prevalent myth about fluoride that we have been conditioned to believe is that fluoride is a positive addition to toothpaste and water because it will prevent tooth decay. However, the claims about this fact have been blown entirely out of proportion while the risks of fluoride have been grossly downplayed. Additionally, the most significant scientific proof for not needing the fluoride in water is that tooth decay has dropped at the same rate in countries with and without water fluoridation.
Today, controlled studies show that fluoridation reduces cavities by approximately 15% to 35%, far less than the two-thirds reductions claimed by researchers and public health promoters in the 1950s and 1960s.
Catherine Carstairs, PhD - Debating Water Fluoridation - American Journal of Public Health 2015
Fluoride may provide some reduction in the prevalence of cavities or tooth decay, but these benefits may come at a price to other areas of our health. As I always teach, if we are going to use something for our health, it has to be safe and worth it, without exposing us to other, more significant problems. We should always consider, first, whether there is a better and safer way to achieve our desired results without needing to subject ourselves to possible and likely harms. In the case of oral health, there is indeed. One of the safest and most effective ways to avoid dental decay is to reduce and remove isolated sugars and foods made with them from our diet. This includes all foods and drinks that are sugary and processed to include isolated sweeteners. This, in fact, not only has tremendous benefits for our oral health but protects us from sugar’s numerous devastating health effects. When we add to this the practice of basic brushing, with just water alone, then we amplify the oral health benefits and reduce the risks of any decay that much more. All this can be done and prove much more effective than any added fluoride ever will without subjecting ourselves to any problematic chemical.
The health risks of added fluoride are, first and foremost, the increased risk of tooth decay called dental fluorosis, which is most commonly observed in children. You may be thinking how ironic that fluoride would be associated with causing the very thing it is credited with preventing, but that is a common occurrence with substances in nature. The field of homeopathy, for example, is all too familiar with this and the Law of Similars respects that whether a substance acts as a remedy or a poison depends entirely on its dose and time or purpose of administration.
Other harmful effects of fluoride have also been associated with increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures, arthritis, thyroid problems, endocrine problems, and cancers. Unfortunately, it is not easy to sift through the studies by consumers who are not trained in the fields of science because so much opposition and contradiction are present in medical and scientific literature since the controversy of fluoride began. The average person will be hard-pressed to decipher which study is valid or worthy of consideration and which is not. The best place that I recommend to begin to anyone wishing to look more into this topic would be the above-cited report from Catherine Carstairs: Debating Water Fluoridation.
When it comes to thyroid disruption, this is a serious risk factor, especially for women, linked to the presence of fluoride in our lives. Recall from the section above that fluorine is in the same chemical family as iodine. Most people are aware that iodine is essential for proper thyroid function, and the presence of too little and too much of it can both create serious thyroid problems. Likewise, fluoride impacts the thyroid hormones - T3, T4, and TSH, and will be of significant concern to those who are at risk of or already suffer from hypothyroidism.
I also want to point special attention to the impacts of fluoride on pregnant women, as well as babies and young children. These groups are at the highest risk for various short-term and long-term health problems due to higher concentrations of fluoride from fluoridated water, toothpaste, and fluoride supplements that used to be heavily pushed by dental professionals. In 2017, a groundbreaking Mexican study was released that brought awareness to the neurotoxicity of fluoride for children and pregnant women with regards to the child’s brain development, cognitive function, and intelligence. In 2019, a Canadian study followed suit testing the brain development and fluoride association and also found that maternal exposure to higher levels of fluoride during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ scores in children aged 3 to 4 years.
A good summary of the dangers of fluoride comes from Dr. Chris Napoli in the following video where he explains why most of Europe has banned fluoride, the different studies that show the links of fluoride with various adverse health effects, and some tips for a life without fluoride.
Please note that I do not recommend Tom’s of Maine toothpaste as Dr. Napoli does in the video because their toothpaste contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), which is a harsh chemical for our skin and delicate oral surfaces, which I explain in my article on harmful personal care ingredients to avoid. Their formulas also contain other undesirable ingredients, and they are owned by Colgate-Palmolive, a chemical company whose products are neither good for our health or the environment.
Many more scientists, doctors, and dentists alike are also speaking out against the use of fluoride, whether in water or toothpaste. Renowned dentists, like the head of preventative dentistry at the University of Toronto, Dr. Hardy Limeback, has openly stated his stance against fluoridation, as has Dr. Bill Osmunson, and many others.
Individual and Group Actions Against Fluoride
As shared above, the controversies related to the risks of fluoride are not new and have been around for decades. What is new, however, is the release of higher-quality studies in recent years and an increase in awareness about the risks of synthetically-added fluoride, especially to water. In general, the public has grown more health-literate in recent decades and more health-conscious, which is leading people to take their health into their own hands and make better choices. This is in part due to the presence of the Internet and in part due to the increasing health issues that we are facing as a society at a time when our health should be better than ever given our modern medical and technological advancements and opportunity for a high quality of life.
While large-scale change is still slow in this area to protect people effectively, one by one, people, communities, and municipalities are taking things into their own hands. If you live in the US or Canada, and cannot imagine life without fluoridated water, recall the stats from above that many countries around the world refuse to add fluoride to their water. Continental Europe, for example, does not fluoridate its water. Luckily, more and more cities each day are taking action on their own in North America and opting to stop fluoridating municipal water, as there is plenty of evidence to date that it does more harm than good. Alongside this, informed consumers are choosing to avoid fluoridated water and toothpaste, and instead opting for fluoride-free options. Slowly but surely, we are causing a ripple effect that is turning the tides on how we perceive fluoride and its role in our health. Large corporations and their economic agendas have run the show for long enough. They have been the main reasons behind so many failed attempts to properly educate and protect the public from harmful substances. Where there is money to be made on a product, there is sure to be a backlash to any efforts to curb its use.
Here in Canada, where I live, whether water is fluoridated and in what amount, depends entirely on the city or municipality in which one lives. The good news is that in the last 40 years, the amount of fluoride put into water has been more than halved, and Health Canada continues to reduce the allowed amount of fluoride in municipal water.
Most people who oppose fluoride in water state that it is a violation of individual rights and the most enforced drug given to the masses without their approval. People should have a say in whether they are exposed to this substance or not. It is one thing to pick it up in tiny quantities in nature, and quite another to have it injected into our lives daily and in questionable amounts.
I am going to share with you another short video, which in my opinion is a must-see for everyone, whether you already know about fluoride dangers or not. In this short film, Dr. Bill Osmunson – a dentist with over 30 years of experience, explains clearly and concisely why your health can be in grave danger because of fluoride.
Healthy Solutions and Alternatives to Fluoride
As part of my journey of living and teaching about optimal health, I removed all toothpaste with fluoride and switched over to a natural, fluoride-free toothpaste back in the spring of 2008. At the time of updating this article, over ten years later, my most commonly chosen toothpaste has been from Green Beaver. This is a Canadian company that is local for me and focused on safe and natural personal care products for the whole family that I can trust, and whose products have been of consistently high quality. While this company is terrific, they are not unique today, and there are many others like it all over the world. I encourage you to find ones like it that are available to you in your area.
Concerning water, I avoid drinking any municipal water that may have been fluoridated because, in addition to fluoride, it has too many other chemical concerns. From 2007 to 2010, I used a home filtration system, and from 2010 to 2019, I lived in a home with a well that provided safe and high-quality water that was free from fluoride and many other toxins that are present in municipal water systems. It is my life-long commitment always to source out the most high-quality and pure water no matter where I go.
In addition to switching my toothpaste, at the same time, I also made dietary changes at the time to remove all sugary foods and drinks from my diet. For the past ten years, I have been enjoying a whole food plant-based diet with outstanding results for not only my oral health but overall physical, mental, and emotional health. I go for one dental cleaning per year and receive great feedback about the health of my teeth and gums each time. I have seen a dentist twice I think in this roughly 10-year span to have one cavity filled. This is a night and day difference to how my teeth were before this time. By the time I was a teen, I had a significant amount of tooth decay and countless cavities by my 20s. I am happy to report that my oral health and integrity of my teeth have never been better.
To close this article, here are the most important changes that you can make to start reducing your exposure to fluoride:
- Change your toothpaste from a common commercial brand that includes fluoride and many other harmful chemicals to an all-natural and fluoride-free one. Brands to consider include: Green Beaver, Jason Natural Cosmetics, and Redmon Earth Paste.
- Consider investing in a high-quality water filter for your entire home, not just kitchen faucet, that removes chlorine, fluoride, and many other harmful substances.
- Don’t drink water with fluoride if you are pregnant or give it to your baby or child.
- Explore and consider water from a local spring. This can be the safest, cheapest, most sustainable, and healthy water if you have such an ability in your area. A map of numerous springs in North America can be found here on Find A Spring
- Take accountability for your choices. Read, research, and expand your knowledge about this and any other health topic that pertains to you in order to create your health with conscious awareness and enjoy the benefits of wellbeing.
References & Further Reading
The Dangers of Fluoride and Fluoridation by Dr. Michael Schachter
Fluoride: Industry’s Toxic Coup by Joel Griffiths
What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Fluoride? by Dr. Joseph Mercola
Too Much Toothpaste Damages Teeth by Suzette Standring
The Truth About Fluoride by Cherrill Hicks
A Systematic Review of Water Fluoridation by the University of York