The majority of toothpastes available to buy today contain fluoride, but a small number of natural toothpastes are advertised as fluoride-free. You might be wondering whether these toothpastes offer a benefit for your teeth or your overall health. Here are some facts to help you decide.
Fluoride Prevents Tooth Decay
Teeth constantly face attack from acids in food and drink, which break down tooth enamel. Teeth are capable of repairing damage to their enamel but only if they have the minerals they need to carry out the repair. Fluoride is a mineral that is necessary to allow teeth to repair themselves, which is why most toothpaste manufacturers put it in their products.
Too Much Fluoride is Harmful
Consuming too much fluoride can be dangerous. Swallowing large amounts of toothpaste can lead to a condition called fluorosis, in which brown patches appear on the teeth. This condition is most common in people who swallow a lot of toothpaste when they are children or teenagers while the adult teeth are still developing. Consuming even larger doses of fluoride can make you sick, but you are very unlikely to reach these doses unless you are eating whole tubes of toothpaste.
Fears about getting too much fluoride lead some people to use fluoride-free toothpaste every day instead of fluoride toothpaste. However, the small amounts of fluoride in regular toothpaste are very unlikely to do you any harm, particularly if you spit the paste out after brushing instead of swallowing it.
Children Need Less Fluoride Than Adults
Dentists recommend that you do not use fluoride toothpaste on your child's teeth until they are 18 months old. Once a child reaches 18 months, they can use a low-fluoride children's toothpaste until they reach the age of six years old. Low-fluoride toothpaste allows children to get the benefits of fluoride for preventing tooth decay while lowering the risk that they will suffer any negative side effects of consuming too much fluoride if they haven't yet mastered spitting out the paste after brushing.
Some People Are Allergic to Fluoride
A very small number of people are allergic to fluoride. Although rare, this condition can cause people to become seriously ill if they consume fluoride every day. If you suspect your toothpaste is making you ill or causing irritation to your mouth, ask your dentist for advice before you switch to fluoride-free toothpaste. There might be another cause or another ingredient in the toothpaste that is responsible.