Does Fluoride Cause Cavities? Everything You Want to Know About Dentists’ Favorite Toothpaste Ingredient

These days even natural ingredients can have a bad rap. Case in point: Fluoride is a natural ingredient common in most mainstream toothpaste formulas that many consumers steer clear of — but why? With speculations surrounding the harmful effects of fluoride in toothpaste, conscious consumers have come up with all sorts of reasons why fluoride in toothpaste is a bad thing, some of which are entirely false.

Does fluoride cause cavities like so many believe? We debunk some common fluoride myths, plus share other must-know things about dentists’ favorite toothpaste ingredient, ahead.

Woman brushing teeth

Most conventional toothpaste formulas contain fluoride. | gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

What is fluoride

As it turns out, fluoride is not some crazy chemical that amps up the power of certain toothpaste formulas. The controversial ingredient is a mineral found in groundwater, oceans, or calcium deposits in phosphate rock.

Albeit a natural ingredient, fluoride has seen a lot of backlash. That’s because too much of it can cause serious, sometimes life-threatening, health concerns. Also, some fluoride (especially the kind found in toothpaste) is produced synthetically — a word many in the natural product movement steer clear of.

Harmful effects of fluoride in toothpaste

With access to information like the harmful effects of fluoride in toothpaste, many consumers steer clear of the ingredient. This has brought up concern amongst many dental professionals, as they believe fluoride is an essential toothpaste ingredient. That said, the harmful effects of fluoride are hard to ignore.

According to the Global Healing Center, fluoride can cause some health concerns. Some of the most well-known concerns include skeletal fluorosis, arthritis, compromised kidney and thyroid health, and female puberty acceleration.

Also, too much fluoride can cause acne, ADHD, high blood pressure, bone cancer, and fertility issues.

Where do you get fluoride from

One of the most common sources of fluoride is toothpaste. That said, it’s not the only way to get fluoride. In addition to the dentist recommended toothpastes, tap water contains fluoride. In fact, it’s added to community water supply on purpose for oral benefits. For this reason, dentists recommend exposing your body — specifically your teeth — to tap water versus bottled water. While some bottled water brands contain small traces of fluoride, it’s typically not enough to reap the benefits of fluoride.

toothbrush, toothpaste

Dentists are concerned about the growing number of consumers using fluoride-free toothpaste. | iStock/Getty Images

Fluoride-free toothpaste

Dentists aren’t excited about fluoride-free toothpaste — but consumers are. That’s because many consumers believe in the natural product movement and, as a result, the harmful effects of fluoride in toothpaste. That said, many dentists show concern for the growing number of individuals making the switch from recommended formulas to natural, fluoride-free products. These professionals don’t believe brushing the teeth prevents tooth decay; They think it’s what’s inside the toothpaste.

Does fluoride cause cavities

Still wondering whether or not fluoride causes cavities? The short answer is no. Fluoride is an agent that protects the teeth from decay, not create more of it. Therefore most dentists recommend using toothpaste with fluoride every time you brush. That said, there are downsides to the ingredient, which is why so many consumers are cautious of the component.

Benefits of fluoride

When it comes to health benefits of fluoride, it’s all about the teeth. Not only can fluoride prevent tooth decay by up to 40 percent, but it can also protect against cavities, is entirely natural (though too much of it can be dangerous), saves consumers money on dental care, and is effective.

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