The Pros and Cons of Switching to Fluoride-Free Toothpaste

Fluoride-free toothpastes have recently been showing up more and more on store shelves. Maybe you have been considering making the switch yourself. After all, they look pretty, taste great, and are more natural than toothpastes with fluoride.

As people become more aware about the chemicals we expose ourselves to on a day-to-day basis, it’s no surprise that fluoride-free toothpastes are gaining popularity. But do they actually work? And how bad is fluoride for you anyway?

Here are some of the pros and cons of making the switch to a fluoride-free toothpaste.

The Pros

You can still get your teeth clean. Most of the cleaning from brushing your teeth comes from the action of brushing, not from the fluoride specifically. Because of this, you can still remove a great deal of the plaque that causes disease and cavities by brushing with a fluoride-free toothpaste. The brushing will get your teeth clean, and the toothpaste will give you fresh breath.

Switching can help avoid health problems later. Although fluoride does help prevent tooth decay, taking in too much can be harmful. Fluoride in excess can cause dental fluorosis, a discoloration of the teeth that, while harmless, doesn’t look great. It’s also been linked to everything from Alzheimer’s to cancer, although these findings are not conclusive.

Fluoride can be dangerous in large amounts. The FDA requires a warning on toothpaste tubes about the dangers of swallowing “more than used for brushing”, along with the admonition to call Poison Control if someone swallows too much. While this usually isn’t a problem, switching to fluoride-free toothpaste will alleviate the danger.  There are so many alternatives now it’s never been easier to switch! Just look at the huge range of fluoride free toothpaste the Atlist community recommends.

The Cons

You won’t get the help from fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Although findings about the exact risks of fluoride have been somewhat scattered, there has been a definite decrease in tooth decay since fluoride has been introduced. All things being equal, brushing with fluoride is more likely to prevent cavities than brushing with a fluoride-free toothpaste.

Fluoride strengthens teeth. In addition to cleaning out plaque-causing bacteria, brushing with fluoride can attract calcium to the mouth. This keeps teeth healthy and can even undo some damage caused by bacteria that started to break down tooth enamel before it gets to the cavity state.

Many problems caused by fluoride are caused by using too much. You’ve probably heard somewhere that you should be using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste, but not that many people actually do that. As it turns out, many of the health risks associated with fluoride can be decreased by just using less. So it’s possible to get the health benefits of fluoride as far as decreasing tooth decay without exposing yourself to the risks of overexposure to fluoride.

So, should you switch?

Ultimately, it’s up to you. Some dentists disagree about the best course of action, but you will still find that most dentists recommend using a toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride has definitely been linked to a clear decrease in tooth decay and does have clear cavity-fighting properties.

At the same time, fluoride has also been linked to increased risks for other health problems, including increased chances of getting Alzheimer’s. Though these studies have not reached the wide conclusiveness of those that tell us fluoride decreases tooth decay, they are certainly worth keeping in mind.

While using a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste can decrease this risk, using a fluoride-free toothpaste removes the risk entirely.

Whether or not you make the switch, it’s key to brush thoroughly twice a day and stay educated about your dental health to keep your teeth looking their best.