toothpaste for kids

There have been many views on whether fluoride should be a part of our oral protection. Antonette Golikidis reviews the effects fluoride has on our health and shares her expertise on this important issue.

Did you know that it’s the brushing action that is the most important process, not the paste that you add to the brush?

The primary purpose of brushing the teeth is simply to clean the accessible tooth surfaces of dental plaque, stains and food debris. Toothpaste became common in the 50s and since then pharmaceutical companies have been marketing toothpaste with fresh-tasting pastes filled with artificial sweeteners, thickeners and flavours. The introduction of fluoride in the 60s resulted in further development of toothpastes with claims of fighting decay and cavities, tartar control, sensitive and enamel-protecting properties. It’s a perfect example of market segmentation at its most successful, and arguably its most valuable role is encouraging people to clean their teeth.

But are all those ingredients safe and necessary?

You brush your teeth every day, so shouldn’t you think about what you’re putting on your pearly whites? Do we need these ingredients to keep our teeth strong and healthy?

A simple perusal of the ingredients list of a tube of commercial toothpaste can yield a long list of chemicals, additives, detergents and (shock!) sweeteners and can contain some harsh abrasives.

Fluoride is one of those ingredients that prompt an opinion from many, and it is found in almost all commercial brands. Dentists believed that fluoride is a “nutrient.” A nutrient is a vitamin or mineral that is necessary for good health. In the case of fluoride, dentists believed that ingesting fluoride during childhood was necessary for the development of strong, healthy teeth, and that a “fluoride deficiency” would cause cavities. It is now known that fluoride content of a tooth has little bearing on whether that tooth will develop a cavity. People can have perfect teeth, therefore, without consuming fluoridated water or fluoride toothpaste.

In fact people who receive too much fluoride often wind up with dental fluorosis. This is a permanent discoloration of the teeth and can make your choppers appear spotted or streaked. It happens in varying degrees of severity, depending on how much excess fluoride you take in.

Fluoride is considered toxic when ingested in high levels and is a controversial additive in water. Accidentally ingesting high quantities of toothpaste (as children sometimes do) can be potentially toxic.

The recommended amount of fluoride has been debated for years, as have the chemical’s negative effects. Reputable sources on both sides of the debate make opposing claims: some say there’s no serious downside to fluoride when it’s included to protect teeth, whereas others blame the chemical for all sorts of problems, including allergies, lower IQs, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer [source: PopeFluoridation].

The undeniable truth is that the use of fluoride-containing pastes by young children should be closely supervised by parents to restrict fluoride ingestion. Although topical fluoride products like toothpaste are not meant to be swallowed, studies show that young children swallow a lot of the paste that is put on the brush — particularly when the toothpaste has a bubble-gum or watermelon flavour. Swallowing toothpaste can cause health complications, including dental fluorosis.

The warning signs…

Have you ever noticed the warning on a tube of toothpaste about the dangers of ingesting fluoride? You may not have – it’s inconspicuous and looks nothing like the brazen warnings that appear on goods such as cigarettes and other tobacco products. But why is it there?

The ADA (Australian Dental Association) recommends parents avoid giving toothpaste to babies and toddlers up to 18 months and use only low-fluoride formulas for children 18 months to six years to prevent fluorosis. So next time you see that warning DO NOT SWALLOW or “do not use in children 6 years of age or less”, I simply ask the question: if a company must by regulation make these warning claims, then is there not something we should be concerned about?

When placed in that context, it’s easy to see why some people are ditching toothpaste containing this supposedly beneficial chemical in favour of fluoride-free brands.

Bare Naturals recommends Little Innoscents Milky Whites Organic Toothpaste. Little Innoscents organic toothpaste is a natural fluoride-free gel with a cool and minty refreshing taste that the kids will love. Free of surfactants, artificial sweeteners and mineral oil.