concerns about fluoride in toothpaste

Should we all be using Fluoride-Free Toothpaste?

When shopping for toothpaste, you may notice more than a few options that are "fluoride-free." That got us wondering... is this a safer product? And if so, is it something all of us should be using?

Fluoride-free toothpastes may make sense for kids, since:

  1. children under the age of 2 should not use fluoride toothpaste.
  2. young children, under the age of 6, tend to apply more than the recommended "pea sized" amount of toothpaste on their brush.
  3. if left unsupervised, children are more likely to swallow toothpaste as they brush. This is because toothpastes usually taste good and a child's swallowing reflex is not yet fully developed. Any amount of fluoride children consume in dental products just compounds the amount they may already be ingesting through drinking water, bottled water, soft drinks, fruit juices and foods prepared with fluoridated water.
  4. children are most susceptible to dental fluorosis -- a very common condition where teeth appear discolored and mottled.
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Is there a reason, however, why adults should be using fluoride-free toothpaste?
To find out, we called several fluoride-free manufacturers and our local pharmacist. Here's what they told us:

"Excessive consumption of fluoride can result in bone fluorosis in adults and dental fluorosis in children. So, fluoride-free toothpaste may be desirable if you are already consuming fluoride through your drinking water. As long as you are not swallowing your toothpaste, however, our fluoridated toothpaste should be safe while still preventing dental decay."

"It is important for infants to start developing good dental habits. On the other hand, infants ages 2-24 months should not be consuming any fluoride beyond what they may already be getting through whatever water is used to mix liquid concentrate or powdered formulas. For all other age groups however, fluoridated toothpaste is probably desirable."

"Fluoride can be reactive with the compounds in dentures -- so folks who wear dentures would opt for fluoride-free toothpastes. Secondly, some adults whose communities have fluoridated water prefer not to be consuming even more fluoride through their toothpaste. Next there are those who confuse health concerns associated with fluoride in drinking water (where the fluoride is ingested) with the fluoride in toothpaste (which as long as you are not swallowing it, is strictly topical). Lastly, there is a small group of people with allergies or health conditions such as thyroid disease that do not respond well to fluoride. Other than for those reasons, however, all adults should be using toothpaste with fluoride. Just try not to swallow it since the amount of fluoride in toothpastes is more than you would want to be ingesting. That's why all fluoride toothpaste tubes carry a warning notice." Editor's note: Since this customer service representative seemed very knowledgeable on the topic, we asked which type of toothpaste he uses: "Since I am prone to cavities, I use our fluoride toothpaste" was his answer.

Care to share your thoughts on fluoride versus fluoride-free toothpaste? Please drop them in the Feedback section below.

You may also be interested in: - The debate over fluoridated drinking water
- Fluoride safety warning for tea drinkers

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Showing comment(s)
August 3, 2013
Actually, the "pea-sized" amount is recommended for children over the age of 3. Children younger than this should be using just a smear or grain-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste:
Becky at
August 6, 2013
Thank you for your comment, Becky.
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