I don’t mean to be a scaremonger, but I probably have your attention now.
Fluoride is touted as “natural” and indeed it is, and there are some areas where a high level of naturally occurring fluoride is found in the water supply. However, most of what gets added to commercial water supplies and toothpaste is a byproduct of industrial production or created in a lab; this same fluoride is also sold for use in wood preservatives, metal coatings, and insecticides, among other uses.
Ever wonder why your toothpaste tube warns you not to swallow (and then adds bubble gum or cherry flavor – I mean, if you don’t want the kids to swallow, make it taste like cabbage or something)? Fluoride is toxic and has been linked to lower IQ in children, thyroid issues, and most commonly, increases the rate of dental fluorosis. Of course, most anything can be toxic in high enough amounts, including water, but the highest recommended fluoride dose is 1 ppm. Based on my simplistic interpretation, the closer something gets to a 0 ppm recommendation, the less I want it.
Now, I’m not going to tell you what to believe. As with any topic, there are reports, studies, and articles arguing all sides of the issue, and I encourage you to do your own research and not just take someone’s word for it, regardless of what side you take. Obviously, I fall into the “fluoride probably isn’t that awesome” camp. As I’ve grown (and learned), my thought process is basically, “Eh, how ’bout we just try to avoid stuff that has lots of chemicals added,” and that includes fluoride.
Today, probably 95% or more of the toothpaste you’ll find is fluoridated. Maybe well-intentioned, but as with much of our medical system, it’s really treating a symptom, not the cause. The largest factor in the problems we have with our teeth is due to diet (funny how it all comes back to the food we eat). For an interesting read, check out the book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration from your local library. A little dry at times (I skimmed a few parts), but it’s really a fascinating look at primitive diets (real food) and dental health. Yes, we have fewer cavities today than our grandparents, but our grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents had even fewer, because they weren’t subsisting on white sugar, overly processed grains, and fruits canned in heavy syrup.
Anyway, after digging around a bit last year, I stumbled across Earthpaste, a toothpaste based on bentonite clay (and a few other ingredients, all of which are pronounceable and familiar). It takes a bit of getting used to – it’s not a pretty blue or white, you’re allowed to swallow (although some habits are hard to break), and it doesn’t make you look rabid (no foaming agents) – but it does the job, and the dentist loved how my teeth looked at followup appointments. I still haven’t broken the news to him that I don’t use fluoride…
Of course, because I’m frugal and like to make my own stuff, I found a recipe for homemade toothpaste that’s roughly equivalent to the Earthpaste. I added neem powder (do a little digging on the people that chew neem sticks and how nice their teeth are), but it’s just about what you’ll get from the tube. (S was concerned that people might think we’re weird if I make public the fact that I make my own toothpaste, but I’m not worried about it. If you don’t think I’m weird by now, you either haven’t read many posts, or you’re just as crazy as me!)
Homemade Fluoride-free Clay Toothpaste
1/4 cup bentonite clay (I used Redmond, but there are others out there)
1 tsp xylitol (I used this; make sure you find one that’s not corn-based)
1 tsp neem leaf or bark powder
3/8 cup boiling water
12-15 drops peppermint essential oil (if you like a minty flavor; you could add a citrus instead)
Combine the first three ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Add the boiling water, and using a hand mixer, mix for about 30 seconds, or until smooth. Add the peppermint and mix again to ensure even distribution. It’s an ugly gray-green color, but we’re not judging on appearances.
Scoop into a small jar and cover. When you’re brushing, just scoop up a bit from the jar with your toothbrush – this should last for at least a couple months.