Earlier this year, The United States Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed something many health professionals already knew… that fluoride levels in our tap water may be too high. Some fluoride appears naturally in water, but our current fluoride consumption is far beyond what was naturally intended. And, as with so many things, more is not necessarily better in fact, you can reach toxic levels. Yet, despite the health risks, modern society has gone a little "fluoride crazy." Not only do we force elevated levels of fluoride on the population through our drinking water, but for years many dental professionals instructed families to use fluoride toothpaste and to give their children fluoride supplements. It’s fluoride overload!
While fluoride can reduce tooth decay, it has also proven to have some alarming side effects, especially in children. The HHS reports that 2 out of 5 children in the US currently suffer from "fluorosis", a condition where fluoride intake has reached toxic levels, generating white spots on the teeth as well as visible pits in tooth enamel. This is where the HHS report stops short. Fluorosis is certainly an unfortunate condition, but there are more serious fluoride-related issues to consider. For example, children under the age of six are at risk of death if they consume large quantities of fluoride toothpaste. If you are still using fluoride toothpaste, take a look at its label. That warning is there for a reason. Sure, you don't want your child's teeth to be spotty... but you REALLY don't want your child to eat a tube of sparkly, candy-like tasting toothpaste while you are looking away.
The HHS plans to lower the recommended amount of fluoride in our drinking water, but levels will vary between geological locations. It is likely that we will continue to be exposed to higher- than-natural levels of fluoride throughout our life. This is why effective fluoride-free dental care is important. A safer alternative to fluoride toothpaste is fluoride-free toothpaste with xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol sweetener that has been proven to have similar cavity fighting properties as fluoride. In fact, xylitol is believed to be even more effective than fluoride. Studies report xylitol in chewing gun reduces tooth decay in children by 50 percent to 75 percent compared to just 30 percent with fluoride. Additonal xylitol studies are now being conducted to confirm the same results with xylitol toothpaste.
What can you do to protect yourself and your family from over-exposure to fluoride?
- Stay informed. Continue to read about fluoride issues so that you can stay abreast of developments. You will likely also discover other issues that will help to empower you to be a healthier person.
- Remove fluoride from your dental health regimen. Choose a fluoride-free toothpaste with xylitol over fluoride-rich varieties for daily use. There are also excellent fluoride-free mouth washes and chewing gum to help combat tooth decay between brushing. Your dentist may recommend a prescription fluoride toothpaste or rinse to help with certain types of tooth sensitivity.
- Pro-actively remove fluoride from your drinking water. You can remove fluoride from the water using an activated alumina defluoridation filter or distillation filtration. Commonplace filters like Pur or Brita will not remove fluoride.
- Get Political. Speak with your local city council representative and let them know that you are concerned about fluoride levels in your local drinking water.
- Network with your neighbors. Talk to your neighbors and community members about the HHS findings and encourage them to learn more and vocalize their opinions.
- Try social media. There are a number of online sites and even Facebook groups devoted to this cause. Some of these groups have some pretty wild theories that I do not personally endorse, but there are many groups who simply want what is best for their family and community.
About the Author: Dr. Flora Stay has practiced dentistry for over 25 years. She is also a published author, a professor at the USC School of Dentistry and a leading authority on health and wellness. Dr. Stay founded Cleure, a premiere manufacturer of fluoride free and SLS free toothpaste and dental health products, as well as personal care products for salicylic acid allergy and sensitive skin care products.