If you’re investigating toothpaste ingredients, it probably won’t be long before you come across a debate on fluoride. Some people have very strong feelings about whether or not to use it, while others aren’t quite sure what it is, or what the fuss is about. Here are our thoughts on dental health and fluoride, why it’s included in Happier Beauty toothpaste, and the facts you need to know.
Developing a natural toothpaste with fluoride
Back in the earliest days of Happier Beauty, our founder Faye asked a lot of dentists what was really important for developing a new toothpaste, and they all agreed on two things: it shouldn’t be too abrasive, and it must contain fluoride. And when the bespoke recipe was being formulated by a dentist and a specialist biochemist, both of them were absolutely clear on including fluoride too.
So what exactly is fluoride, and why do dentists get so excited about it?
Fluoride and dental health
Fluoride is a natural element, and you’ll find it in tiny amounts all across the natural world – in the air, soil and rocks; in fresh water, rivers and oceans; in plants, and in our bodies (mostly stored in our bones and teeth).
The reason dentists recommend using toothpaste with fluoride is because it helps to prevent dental cavities and tooth decay.
Healthy tooth enamel contains minerals, which can gradually be lost over time (a process called demineralisation). One of the main causes of demineralisation comes from the bacteria which live in the mouth and feed off sugars in saliva – the acid they produce is bad news for the minerals in teeth. And if those minerals aren’t replenished, the enamel becomes vulnerable, and we end up with dental cavities.
Our bodies are always working to remineralise the enamel and keep teeth strong, and fluoride helps to support this important process. It may also slow down bacteria’s growth and acid production.
Why do people worry about fluoride?
Many of us are becoming more careful about ingredients in our foods and beauty products, especially after discoveries about the impact of common substances like sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) or triclosan. It’s always worth investigating what’s in the products that we regularly buy and use.
Fluoride occurs naturally in our bodies and is beneficial at safe levels but, like anything that’s fine in moderation, having too much can cause harmful side effects.
In countries where there is naturally more fluoride in the groundwater, such as India and Tibet, people who are exposed to excessively high fluoride over a long time can develop fluorosis, which affects teeth and bones. No association has been found between fluoride and other diseases such as cancer.
You can find out more about fluoride and health here
Fluoride in the UK
Fluoride levels around the world naturally vary, but some countries also add a carefully controlled amount to drinking water, with the aim of protecting the general population against dental cavities.
You might assume you’re also getting extra fluoride in your drinking water, but this is most likely if you live in the United States, where about 70% of the water contains added fluoride.
In the UK, only about 14% of the country receives water with added fluoride… so you may not be getting as much of it as you think! And it means that for most of us, the main source of fluoride will come from our toothpaste.
Are there any alternatives?
Hydroxyapatite is one of the minerals that makes up our teeth and bones, and it forms a big part of tooth enamel. It can also be produced as an ingredient for toothpaste, and because it’s biocompatible with the natural version in our bodies, this can help with the remineralisation process.
It’s been popular with dentists in Japan for a long time and isn’t quite as well known in other countries yet, but you are likely to see it in toothpastes which are fluoride-free – these tend to rely on hydroxyapatite for strengthening enamel.
There’s evidence that hydroxyapatite and fluoride work really well together, so that combining them is actually more effective than using either one on its own. That’s why we’ve included both in Happier Beauty toothpaste: to maximise their strengthening and protective potential!
5 things we’ve learned about fluoride
- Toothpaste with fluoride is recommended by dentists because it’s so effective for preventing tooth cavities – especially in the UK, where most people don’t have fluoride added to their drinking water.
- Studies show that using fluoride in recommended amounts appears to be safe for most people.
- Hydroxyapatite also helps to strengthen tooth enamel, and using it together with fluoride can make both ingredients more effective.
- Young children and babies can be affected by excessively high levels of fluoride over time (for children’s dental care, always follow advice from your dentist.)
- For everyone else, you can get all the benefits of fluoride from using a pea-sized amount of toothpaste (not the huge squeeze you see in adverts and cartoons!) Spit out your toothpaste foam after brushing, and you’re sorted.
Want to check out all the ingredients in Happier Beauty toothpaste? Find the whole list here.