Why Fluoride-Free May Be Best For Your Family

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What if I told you that fluoride could be harmful to your health?

That would go against what traditional advice tells you, right?

Well in this article I am going to share with you what I have learned about fluoride so that you can make an informed decision for you and your family.

Why I Questioned the Use of Fluoride

About five years ago I met with Allison Dunaway, Registered and Licensed Dietitian, after being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. She is amazing and taught me about the steps that I needed to take to decrease my symptoms and finally start feeling better.

One of these steps was to immediately stop using fluoride toothpaste and to filter my water.

I had never questioned fluoride or really thought about it much before, so I did a bit of research and found that fluoride increases the concentration of TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), and decreases T3 and T4, which is a classical feature of hypothyroidism. In cases of prolonged fluoride exposure the entire function of the thyroid gland will be suppressed and TSH levels will go down.

Surprisingly, according to Dr. Izabella Wentz, fluoride was used to treat hyperthyroidism up until the 1950’s, prior to the development of other thyroid-suppressing medications. A dose of 2-5 mg of fluoride per day was typically found to be effective for suppressing an overactive thyroid. If you live in the typical fluoridated community and you’re drinking your 8 cups of water each day, chances are, you are inadvertently taking in enough fluoride to suppress your thyroid.

After thinking about this research I decided to follow Allison’s advice. I switched to a fluoride-free toothpaste and started to filter my drinking water.

It is important to note that not all the people that are exposed to the same amount of fluoride in drinking water end up with thyroid problems, as factors like environment (climate, duration and the amount of drinking, addition of other salts in the water etc) and individual predisposition (genetics, individual biology) greatly affect the likelihood of developing any type of health complications.

Other Major Negative Effects of Fluoride

I recently researched this topic again when making decisions about fluoride for my daughter. Making decisions about my health is important of course, but making decisions about my child’s health and future is something I take very seriously. I’m sure all of you mom and dad’s do as well.

From my recent research I found that in addition to decreased thyroid function other harmful effects of fluoride may include:

I have cited just a few studies, but there are literally thousands of studies about this topic (over 50,000 through PubMed alone).

There are organizations that list a huge range of health problems such as cancer, ADHD, bone decay, and early onset puberty. The evidence about these conditions is mixed and still being researched. As with any medication or supplement age, gender, genetic factors, nutritional status, weight, and other factors are known to influence each person’s unique reaction to fluoride exposure.

According to A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards, it was concluded that from recent information largely derived from histological, chemical, and molecular studies:

It is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain and the body by direct and indirect means.

What Exactly is Fluoride?

Fluoride is a trace mineral that is naturally present at low concentrations in most fresh and saltwater sources.

Fluoride-containing compounds, such as sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate, are not naturally occuring. Unlike naturally occurring fluoride, these compounds are rapidly and extensively absorbed by the human body.

Synthetic fluoride is what you will find in your water supply and dental products.

Why is There Fluoride in our Water Supply?

Back in the 1940’s, scientists began to look at ways to reduce the high rates of tooth decay in children and adults. They found that fluoride in the water reduced bacteria in the mouth that caused tooth decay. After scientists determined it could be useful in preventing tooth decay, it was added to municipal water sources in larger quantities (even though fluoride is a trace mineral that is not meant to be introduced to the body in large amounts).

Interestingly, when researching this I found that the initial fluoridation of water was sponsored by sugar lobbyists whose goal was to “find out how tooth decay could be controlled effectively without restriction of sugar intake” (stated in The Case against Fluoride).

But many experts now question the scientific basis for the intervention.

  • In June 2015, the Cochrane Collaboration, a global independent network of researchers and health care professionals, published an analysis of 20 key studies on water fluoridation. The Cochrane report concluded that early scientific investigations on water fluoridation (most were conducted before 1975) were deeply flawed. They had concerns about the methods used, or the reporting of the results, in 97% of studies.
  • Comprehensive data from the World Health Organization reveals that there is no discernible difference in tooth decay between the minority of western nations that fluoridate water, and the majority that do not. In fact, the tooth decay rates in many non-fluoridated countries are now lower than the tooth decay rates in fluoridated ones.
  • A systematic review of water fluoridation studies conducted at The University of Manchester concluded that there is insufficient evidence to determine whether water fluoridation results in a change in disparities in dental caries levels.

There are many more studies like these. Yet, while most westernized countries have rejected fluoridation, the United States, Canada, and parts of the UK continue to fluoridate their water.

If you are interested in learning about your community’s drinking water fluoridation levels you can start by checking the CDC’s website here. However, it is not mandatory for states to report their water fluoridation information to the CDC. The state where I live, Ohio, chooses not to, so I found the information by checking with my local water provider.

It’s important to note that infants and children can be more intensely affected by fluoride. The amount of fluoride added to the water supply is calculated based on the average weight of an adult, not a child or a lower-weight adult. Notably, a bottle-fed baby in a fluoridated area gets up to 200 times more fluoride than a breast-fed baby, resulting in an increased risk of dental fluorosis and other adverse effects.

How Do I Avoid Fluoride in Water?

To avoid fluoride in my family’s water, we use a water filter for all of our drinking water and water that I use for cooking. Not all water filtration systems work to reduce or eliminate fluoride, so make sure to read the descriptions before purchasing.

The three types of filters that can remove fluoride are reverse osmosis, deionizers (which use ion-exchange resins), and activated alumina. Each of these filters should be able to remove about 90% of the fluoride.

I am not super picky when eating at restaurants. I feel that as long as the majority of the water that I’m drinking is filtered then I will be okay. And I can’t imagine myself taking my own water filter pitcher into a restaurant. Although, it’s probably not the weirdest thing I have taken into a restaurant.

What About Fluoride Toothpaste?

But isn’t fluoride in toothpaste necessary to prevent tooth decay? Spoiler alert…the answer is no.

Fluoride is thought to prevent tooth decay by decreasing bacteria as well as remineralizing areas where damage has already occurred.

Unfortunately, recent research has shown that the amount of fluoride in fluoridated toothpastes and the length of time that you brush your teeth or your children’s teeth is not enough for the fluoride to have significant re-mineralization effects on the enamel of the teeth. The actual mechanical removal (brushing) of plaque-causing bacteria with a toothbrush is more beneficial than using a fluoridated toothpaste.

The upside is that a 2014 study found that highly concentrated fluoride applications, such as the fluoride treatments used at your dentist’s office, are very likely to be of use in the preventive treatment of erosive wear. Yet, it was noted that the evidence base for clinical effectiveness is still small.

These treatments are recommended by most dentists since a high concentration of fluoride is applied to your teeth using a mouthguard device to help aid in the remineralization of teeth. (I’m sure you’ve had these…those fun treatments where they put that squishy tray of sickeningly sweet bubble gum flavored goo all over your teeth). After a few minutes, your hygienist sucks away this fluoride solution with a high-powered suction vacuum so that you don’t accidentally ingest fluoride.

They key is that the fluoride is not ingested.

If you read the label on the back of a tube of fluoride toothpaste you’ll see that it says “do not swallow” and “to minimize swallowing use a pea-sized amount in children under 6”. It also says to contact Poison Control if too much is accidentally swallowed.

fluoride toothpaste

How Do I Take Care of My Teeth?

Luckily, there are many things that you can do to take care of your teeth without the use of fluoride.

Proper Brushing

Proper brushing at least twice a day using a fluoride-free toothpaste is essential for removing cavity-causing bacteria from the surface of teeth. Two minutes seems to be the “magic” number of minutes needed to get rid of plaque.

There are many options for fluoride-free toothpaste. Check out this post for the best options, The Best Fluoride Free Toothpaste Brands.

Floss Regularly

Flossing does about 40% of the work required to remove sticky bacteria, or plaque, from your teeth. Each tooth has five surfaces. If you don’t floss, you are leaving at least two of the surfaces unclean. Floss is the only thing that can really get into that space between the teeth and remove bacteria.

I use regular dental floss and my daughter uses Crayola Kids’ Flossers. They are easy for her to use and are colorful. They do have a fluoride coating, but I’m thinking that it’s not enough for her to actually ingest.

Avoid Sugar and Processed Foods

Limiting sugar will make a huge difference in protecting your teeth. Sugar is a major culprit for tooth decay, especially in children.

According to Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development:

We have solid evidence that keeping intake of sugars to less than 10 percent of total energy intake reduces the risk of obesity and tooth decay.  

Why is sugar especially bad for your teeth? According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NICDR), the mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria, many of which are beneficial to the oral ecosystem. However, certain harmful oral bacteria actually feed on the sugars you eat to create acids that destroy the tooth enamel, which is the shiny, protective outer layer of the tooth. Cavities are a bacterial infection created by acids, that cause your teeth to experience a hole in them.

Therefore, one of the keys to oral health is limiting sugar and eating a diet full of vegetables, nuts, and grass-fed meats. The latest research suggests even moderate amounts of omega-3 fats may help ward off gum disease. For more tips check out this article, How to Help Your Kids Develop Healthy Eating Habits (Using advertising techniques, digging in the dirt, and having fun!).

Chew Sugar-Free Gum Between Brushing

Chewing sugarless gum has been shown to increase the flow of saliva, thereby reducing plaque acid, strengthening the teeth and reducing tooth decay.

Visit the Dentist Regularly

We continue to see our dentist twice a year. We use fluoride during these visits, since the dentist can help suction away fluoride before it’s ingested. And, as mentioned previously, the fluoride treatments used at your dentist’s office are very likely to be of use in the preventive treatment of erosive wear.

What If You Want to Use Fluoride?

If you choose to use fluoride toothpaste it’s best to follow these guidelines written by Dr. Simina Saber:

Up to 3 years old

  • Children should have their teeth brushed by an adult.
  • The use of fluoridated toothpaste in this age group is determined by the level of risk – by a dental professional.
  • A minimal amount of toothpaste, a “smear” or size of a “grain of rice” should be used.

Children between 3 and 6 years old

  • Should be assisted by an adult in brushing their teeth.
  • A “green pea” size of fluoridated toothpaste is safe and sufficient for this age group.

key points of fluoride use

*Please note that the information in this blog post should not be used to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease or condition. This information is not a substitute for medical advice from your health care professional. For more details see my medical disclaimer here.

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  1. Alexandra

    January 30, 2019 at 7:32 am

    Thank you for this useful information! I have definitely heard of the benefits of fluoride before, so I am grateful for you raising awareness at why it may have harmful effects.

  2. Alison

    January 30, 2019 at 10:55 am

    Great tips! I totally agree. Thanks for the extensive article.

  3. Katy

    January 30, 2019 at 11:23 am

    Agreed! We are a fluoride free family (for the most part). As you do – I don’t always stress when we are out, but try to otherwise avoid. Most don’t even notice the warning label right on the tube of toothpaste!

  4. Melissa

    January 30, 2019 at 12:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing! We have been fluoride free ever since learning about its ill effects. We even bring our kids’ fluoride free toothpaste to the dentist. 🙂 We usually bring our own water bottles everywhere, even when eating out. LOL. But I don’t stress out too much about it if we end up drinking unfiltered water somewhere.

  5. Isa

    January 31, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    Thanks Kat for sharing this.. I’ve never been aware of the fluoride in the water. I better have a look how it is in my area. To be honest, I hope it’s okay as we don’t drink bottled water here.


    1. Kat

      February 1, 2019 at 4:09 pm

      Hi, I didn’t think about fluoride in water until recently. Luckily, there are a lot of options for water filters. Thank you!

  6. Shelly

    February 1, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Great info, Kat! We purchased a big Berkey filter this year and love it!! We have well water so no fluoride added but it filters so much gunk! They have filter additions specifically for fluoride as well.

    1. Kat

      February 1, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks! I might have to get a big Berkey. It looks like it would last a lot longer than the one I’m using. Thank you!

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