It is not uncommon to find the words "fluoride-free" on tubes of natural toothpaste: having become a real selling point, the absence of fluoride would be a guarantee of safety for consumers looking for clean oral products. But what are the actual harmful effects of fluoride? Can we do without it and what ingredients should replace with? We help you see more clearly.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is an essential trace element , found in our bones and teeth. Since the 1950s, it has been used in the form of salt, namely sodium fluoride ( sodium fluoride in INCI nomenclature) in the vast majority of toothpastes and conventional mouthwashes to prevent and treat cavities.
It is still today the active anti-caries which has been the most proven: it comes to protect and strengthen the enamel , namely the outer layer covering our teeth, and helps stop the caries process.
Cavities are primarily caused by consuming acidic and / or sugary foods, regardless of whether the sugar has been added like sucrose, or naturally present like fructose. Concretely, the bacteria of our oral microbiota constituting dental plaque feed on these sugars and transform them into acids. When the enamel comes into contact with these acids, it gradually erodes - the process of demineralization of the teeth begins.
Fluorine gets incorporated into the surface of the enamel and forms a protective shield, making it much more resistant to acid attack. Fluoride boosts the remineralization of enamel by replenishing minerals previously dissolved by acids. Its antibacterial action will also reduce dental plaque, and therefore greatly reduce the risk of cavities. When brushing, the toothpaste is never completely spat out, this allows the fluoride to attach to the teeth and act locally.
During childhood, fluoride intake is essential to maintain healthy teeth. In fact, the enamel of milk teeth is much thinner than that of permanent teeth, and therefore more vulnerable to acid attacks. Fluoride therefore both prevents the onset of cavities but also strengthens the enamel during the development of new teeth. It is therefore necessary to avoid as much as possible to turn to a toothpaste without fluoride and to read the various mentions on the tube, in particular the age group for which it is intended.
From 3 to 6 years old, it is recommended to use a toothpaste containing 250 to 500ppm * of fluoride, in order to limit involuntary ingestion . From 6 years old, the appropriate rate is between 1000 and 1450ppm. A dose greater than 1500ppm may be prescribed by a dentist as part of treatment for a caries infection.
* part per million, unit of measure
So why, despite its benefits, is fluoride so controversial and so often criticized by natural hygiene brands?
The dangers of too much fluoride
Unfortunately, an excessive ingestion of fluoride can be harmful and cause more or less severe sequelae in the long term.
Too much fluoride supplementation during childhood can have the opposite effect from that sought: the enamel weakens instead of being strengthened, and becomes porous.This is called dental fluorosis , an irreversible deterioration of the enamel characterized by the appearance of whitish and sometimes brown spots on the teeth.The enamel cannot regenerate itself, only a dentist will have the ability to hide these spots, but only superficially. This is why it is imperative to supervise the brushing of young children , not only to control the amount of toothpaste withdrawn (the size of a pea), but also to ensure that that they spit out all of it.
Even more serious: if this overdose continues for several years, the fluoride eventually accumulates in the bones and causes the skeleton to densify. This painful disease called bone fluorosis makes bones extremely fragile, much less flexible than healthy bones, and therefore more prone to fractures. In the most serious cases, fluorosis directly impacts the joint mobility of those affected and even leads to skeletal deformities.
There is also a theory implicating fluorine in the calcification of our pineal gland. The main role of this organ is to secrete melatonin, also known as “sleep hormone”, which helps us to regulate our biological rhythm. The natural process of calcification (i.e. the accumulation of calcium in the tissues), which occurs gradually with age, would be accelerated by the daily absorption of fluoride and would therefore cause a decrease in the production of melatonin. However, this presumed link between the use of fluoridated toothpaste and increased calcification of the pineal gland has not yet been scientifically proven.
For the sake of the dental health of populations, fluoride is added to many products that we consume on a daily basis: bottled water, chewing gum, table salts… It is even naturally present in certain tap water, many cheeses, certain fish and shellfish, spinach, tea and dates! We are willing to bet that you eat at least one of these foods every day 😉
What are the alternatives to fluoride?
If after all this information in mind you consciously want to go for a fluoride-free toothpaste , know that there are now several ingredients of natural origin that also offer effective protection against cavities.
Among them, we find in particular hydroxyapatite , a calcium phosphate which is none other than the main component of our teeth: its almost identical to that of our enamel allows to remineralize the teeth and to fill the caries lesions. It is also the anti-caries active ingredient used in the majority of Japanese oral products for over 40 years.
There are also 100% natural sweeteners, such as xylitol from birch bark or erythritol from fermented foods, which also help fight against the appearance of cavities. These sugar derivatives are not metabolized by the bacteria in our mouths, which prevents them from being transformed into acids responsible for the breakdown of enamel. Better yet: they poison these bacteria and greatly help reduce their proliferation.
After long reflection, our decision at Les Petits Prödiges was to create a toothpaste that is both 100% natural and without fluoride .The performance of these substitutes unrelated to the risk of overdose has captured our full attention: we have therefore chosen to integrate erythritol into our formula as an anti-caries active ingredient, coupled with calcium carbonate with an abrasive action to remove dental plaque We have taken care to offer you a short composition that is both clean and effective, without compromise, which guarantees a impeccable oral hygiene .
Of course, if you have any questions about fluoride or would like recommendations tailored to your personal needs, we recommend that you speak to a healthcare professional. .
In summary, here are the points to remember about the problem of without fluorine :
The fluoride added in oral products has a protective and fortifying action on the enamel, very effective against caries caused by consumption of sugars.
During childhood , when our teeth are not yet fully formed, it is essential to use toothpaste containing fluoride to prevent the appearance of cavities.
An excess of fluoride can be harmful and cause diseases , the most common being dental fluorosis, and in more severe cases bone fluorosis.
We actually ingest fluoride daily , it is present in many foods, drinks and condiments!
A fluoride-free toothpaste can be used safely from the age of 10, provided it contains effective alternative anti-caries active ingredients.