Fluoride & Tooth Decay. How Helpful is it Really?

Fluoride & Tooth Decay. How Helpful is it Really?

Dr Cesar Lara

Colgate (1) claims that treating your teeth with fluoride is a necessity to any oral care regimen. But just how necessary is it and is there such a thing as too much? Could a whiter smile be putting our health at risk?

What is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a mineral found naturally in some foods, soil, and in natural water sources. Once in the body, fluoride is absorbed in the blood through the digestive tract and collect in areas high in calcium such as teeth and bones. It has been previously found to be an effective means of strengthening tooth enamel and preventing tooth decay and has been referred to as “nature’s cavity fighter” by the American Dental Association (2). At high concentrations, fluoride helps fight off tooth decay by “poisoning” bacteria (e.g., streptococcus mutans) in the mouth by interfering with the enzymes.

Fluoridated Water

The Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) classifies cavities as one most common diseases of childhood.  Although, Fluoride is in 95% (3) of toothpaste sold in the United States, they found that drinking fluoridated water reduced tooth decay (cavities) by 25% in children and adults. As a result, they decided to infuse our drinking water sources with added fluoride as a cost- effective and available means to lowering the prevalence of cavities among the entire population. The CDC even went as far as to classify municipal water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century (4).

Still, a National Institute of Health (NIH) funded study (5) found no significant relationship between tooth decay and fluoride intake in children.

Fluoride was first added in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but now more than ¾ of the population drink fluoride water. However, the chemicals used to fluoridate the water are not pharmaceutical grade or natural, being Hydoflourosilicic Acid, Sodium Silicoflouride or Sodium Fluoride. These chemicals are produced synthetically by “wet scrubbers” (6) - systems of the commercial phosphate fertilizer industry. There is cause for concern since these fluoride chemicals are classified hazardous wastes and have been found contaminated with arsenic, a known carcinogenic.  A link between water treated with silicoflourides and high levels of lead in blood has also been reported.

However, countries who do not fluoridate their water have also seen a drop (7) in cavities over the years.  Because of this, 97% of Europe has rejected water fluoridation. So just how effective and necessary is adding fluoride to water in preventing tooth decay?

The chemical was originally added to water because it was found to reduce tooth decay in children, not adults. However, with it being added to water sources the adult intake is unnecessary and actually harmful. Now, both adults and children are overexposed to the chemical. Fluoride is most effective in preventative oral care when applied topically (8) to the teeth, not when ingested where it can enter the bloodstream and affect brain function. When not ingested, minimizing the amount swallowed is considered “generally” safe and effective. So, Fluoride in toothpaste and mouthwash products would be sufficient in itself. However, doses still exceed the recommended intake from toothpaste alone.

Is it harmful?

Although Fluoride is not an essential nutrient, meaning integral to any biological process, it may interfere with other vital processes. Despite this, it is still added to virtually all municipal water supplies and apparent in the majority of toothpastes found on the store shelf.

Every toothpaste and mouthwash sold in the US now comes with a poison warning. A single tube of bubble gum flavoured Colgate-for-Kids toothpaste contains enough fluoride (143mg) to kill a child weighing about 66lbs or 30kg. Acute fluoride poisoning (9) can occur at doses as low as 0.1 to 0.3 mg per kg bodyweight and is most common in children under 6 due to incomplete development of their swallowing reflex and the appealing candy flavours provided by the companies. This can present itself as gastric pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness and flu-like symptoms. Today, there are over 23,000 reports a year.

Dental Fluorosis or tooth discoloration is a defect in tooth enamel caused by excessive fluoride intake during tooth-forming years (ages 0-8). In mild cases, it causes white splotches on teeth but in more severe cases in can cause brown and black staining as well as crumbling of the enamel. Currently, the CDC tells us that about 41% (10) of children in the United States have dental fluorosis. It was found that fluoridated areas have higher levels of dental fluorosis than non- fluoridated areas.           

Bone Health:

About 50% of ingested (11) fluoride is absorbed in the bones and teeth. There, it can calcify the tissues in the bones and pineal gland. Fluoride actually accumulates at the highest levels in the pineal gland (12), the space between the two brain hemispheres and often referred to as your third eye. In many cultures, this space between your brows is responsible for conscience, spiritual consciousness, intuition, and insight.  The calcification of the pineal gland may cause depression, Alzheimer’s disease, or bipolar disorder. It is also responsible for the synthesis and secretion of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin regulates the body’s circadian rhythm (sleep-wake structure) and regulates puberty. A reduction in melatonin can lead to hormonal imbalances and increased chance of earlier onset puberty.

Fluoride (7) stimulates bone cell growth, alters the tissue’s structure, and weakens the skeleton. When used as an experimental treatment because of its ability to increase bone health, the study actually concluded that fluoride actually increased fracture rates (13), even in the absence of any physical trauma. So, the strength of bone declines with increasing fluoride levels.

Fluoridation also may cause bone cancer (osteosarcoma). Although, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) finds the evidence inconclusive, many studies have found a higher rate of osteosarcoma in young men in fluoridated areas (14) versus unfluoridated. This may be due to its ability to interfere with the enzymes involved in DNA cell and tissue repair and cause chromosome damage.


A study (15) in Mexico, found that pregnant women with higher levels of fluoride were more likely to have children with symptoms of ADHD, especially inattention. This could be partially due to thyroid hormone insufficiency in the pregnant mothers which can alter children’s levels of dopamine- a vital element in behavioural development (16). In fact, the highest doses of fluoride are to bottle-fed babies (17) which puts them at major risk for dental fluorosis and toxicity.

Thyroid problems

High amounts of fluoride can lead to thyroid (18)problems. A Canadian study found that those with iodine deficiency (a mineral crucial to thyroid health and helps flush fluoride from the system) and who had high amounts of fluoride also had higher levels of thyroid stimulating hormone. Just a small increase in this hormone can pose serious problems such as hypothyroidism which can cause fatigue, disrupted heart rate, and altered metabolism. With 18% of nearly 7 million people studied being deficient in iodine, fluoride exposure puts them at risk.

Impaired Glucose Metabolism  

Relatively small doses of fluoride show significantly higher levels of glucose in blood and decreased insulin levels. This calls into the question the correlation between the prevalence of diabetes (19) and fluoride intake. Therefore, it is recommended that diabetics might use low or no-fluoride toothpaste.

Fluoride is an enzyme/endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin. In addition to these effects of its consumption, Fluoride may also cause skin rashes or perioral dermatitis, stomatitis, lower IQ, and arthritic symptoms.


Fluoride has many adverse effects on human health problems, while having only a modest impact on dental care prevention.  There is no control over how much we intake with it in our water making us unaware of its harm in our bodies. Even if fluoride may help prevent tooth decay, additional amounts should be avoided from our water sources since high levels can be dangerous.

Here are some tips if you choose to avoid or limit your exposure to fluoride:

  1. Switch to non- fluoride toothpastes: There are great toothpaste alternatives that use natural ingredients like charcoal, baking soda, and coconut oil.
  2. Drink bottled water: But this can be harmful to the environment and often other bottled waters can contain fluoride- Choose alkaline water which will help regulate your body’s pH level.
  3. Get a fluoride water filter: Use a reverse osmosis water filter or gravity fed system certified and tested to remove at least 97% of fluoride
  4. Eat organic! Avoid red meat, sodas, and artificial foods and drinks since all contain levels of fluoride and are highly acidic.
  5. Eat super foods like spirulina, chlorella, wheatgrass, kale, broccoli and raw cacao to aid is decalcification.
  6. Supplement- Calcium, Vitamin D, Phosphorus, and Vitamin A all help strengthen and promote healthy teeth and bones.
  7. Avoid tap water in big cities (20) where water is usually fluoridated.

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(1) https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/basics/fluoride/what-does-fluoride-do-0316
(2) https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/f/fluoride?_ga=2.129403148.1682046114.1563376242-281368471.1563376242
(3) https://fluoridealert.org/issues/dental-products/toothpastes/
(4) https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4850bx.htm
(5) http://fluoridealert.org/studies/ifs/
(6) http://fluoridealert.org/articles/phosphate01/
(7) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/fluoridated-drinking-water/
(8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15153698
(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5651468/
(10) https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db53.htm
(11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3956646/
(12) http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/pineal-gland/
(13) http://fluoridealert.org/studies/bone01/
(14) https://health.gov/environment/ReviewofFluoride/MAJfind.htm
(15) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412018311814?via%3Dihub
(16) https://ehjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12940-015-0003-1
(17) https://fluoridealert.org/articles/50-reasons/
(18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30316182
(19) https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273442062_Fluoride_Causes_Diabetes
(20) http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Member%20Center/FIles/Fluoridation_Status_of_50_Largest_U.S._Cities.ashx



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