Go into your bathroom and grab any tube of toothpaste within reach. If it is a tube of fluoride toothpaste (as the vast majority are) it will, by law, have this warning printed somewhere on the tube: “If you accidentally swallow more than used for brushing, seek professional help or contact a poison control center immediately.” In this case, “professional help” likely means a physician or a local ER, and “poison control center” essentially means start praying because you (or your child) just swallowed a bunch of poison.
Wait a minute? If fluoride were poison why would it remain a key ingredient in toothpaste, a dental hygiene product we put in our mouth every day? And isn’t our municipal water supply teeming with fluoride?
Yes, fluoride remains in our water supply and despite the risk of fluoride poisoning; it remains a key ingredient in toothpaste, as well as an inert ingredient in soda, tea, diet pills and bottled water (basically, anything with water in it likely has fluoride). While fluoride has been proven to benefit teeth (preventing cavities) and strengthen bones (as has been endorsed by the American Dental Association), the potential dangers of fluoride may far outweigh its benefits. To be clear, lets get down to the elements.
Fluoride is a molecule containing the element fluorine, and is achieved by combining fluorine with another element. It is naturally occurring in water with a high mineral content, and in small doses (one part per million), it does what it is touted to do: strengthen developing teeth and bones. In larger doses that exceed this amount it can decrease IQ, damage teeth and cause arthritis, and in excessive amounts, it can even cause death. Sure, it’s put in toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent tooth decay, but it’s also added to rat poison and insecticides to kill stuff.
Prolonged and excessive exposure to fluoride results in something fairly grave called fluorosis, which exists in dental form (spots on the teeth as well as degradation of the tooth) and the skeletal form (gradual weakening of bones). Now, I have no interest in causing a panic, and I am not implying that a mouthful of fluoride toothpaste will make you a dumb, rubber-boned victim (providing you don’t swallow that mouthful), but the fact that our toothpaste, as well as our municipal water supply (currently 67 percent of the country has fluoridated water) is rich with fluoride, does strengthen our chances of falling victim to fluorosis, as well as weakening our teeth and bones, which were supposed to be fortified by this additive–ironic, isn’t it?
Individuals who are sensitive to fluoride could fairly easily opt out of the fluoride toothpaste market and go for a product without this ubiquitous additive (people with chronic thyroid issues are often encouraged to do without fluoride toothpaste). However, for most of us, we still unwittingly receive our daily dose of fluoride every time we turn on the tap, open a soda, or pretty much drink anything.
If fluoride is such a borderline product holding numerous untold risks (see part two for the truly shady part of the story), then why is it still being used in consumer products and dumped liberally into our water supply?
Stay tuned for part two of this posting where I take a look at the use of fluoride in our water supply, as well as the shadow side of the fluoride issue.