Many people commonly wonder - is fluoride safe?
In 2014, the Lancet Neurology medical journal published an article saying that fluoride – commonly found in drinking water and routinely used to protect teeth and preserve dental health – was dangerous to the brain of developing children. Since that time, many concerned and conscientious parents have worried and wondered whether the fluoride they thought was protecting their children was harming them.
As dentists, we never mind fielding questions from parents. After all, we care about your child’s total wellness—not just their dental health alone. Since that report, many of these questions have been from worried parents, regarding the question, “Is fluoride safe for my kid?”
So, is fluoride safe? What is the truth about fluoride?
Overwhelmingly, dentists and doctors alike, agree fluoride is safe for children and adults. In fact, it’s essential to dental health and this fact is without a doubt.
However, we understand too, it’s hard to just take our word for it. After all, we are in the “fluoride is vital and important” business.
Below is additional information and research to help assure you of the safety of fluoride.
The studies on the health risks of fluoride were not solid.
The Lancet study had no new data. Instead, it relied only on a 2012 study of children in China where fluoride levels found naturally in water were extremely high—much higher than what is added to drinking water in the US. The Chinese children who had the very highest levels of fluoride in their water had lower IQs than other children who lived in areas where fluoride concentrations were lower.
Yet, this study was inherently flawed because no other variables were considered. Furthermore, subsequent studies more standardized in nature showed no such association between fluoride and IQ.
On the other hand, there is a plethora of scientific data and research supporting the importance of fluoride to a child’s dental health. It’s also important for adults too. That’s why a small amount of fluoride was added to the drinking water supply in the US since the 1940’s, and then to toothpastes and mouthwashes as well.
Is there a reason to limit a child’s consumption of fluoride?
Doctors and researchers at Berkley say, “No.” They add that limiting fluoride could “backfire” since again, kids need fluoride for protection against cavities and tooth decay. (Berkley Wellness article on fluoride safety) Of course, they add, since ideally kids are brushing multiple times a day, you shouldn’t let them swallow too much. But that’s really the only caution.
Some websites say fluoride causes cancer. Is this true?
No established or comprehensive medical studies show this. The only relational studies even done involved animals, not humans, and did not show a verifiable link. Furthermore, all the following organizations have decided there is no sound basis for considering such a causal relationship at all:
- National Institutes of Health
- The American Academy of Pediatrics,
- The National Academy of Sciences
- The American Council of Science and Health
Can’t fluoride cause white spots on the teeth? Are these dangerous?
Such spots are known as a condition called “fluorosis” and it’s extremely rare. Less than 3% of children will ever have this problem and for those who do, it’s only superficial—cosmetic in nature. Furthermore, people have developed fluorosis where fluoride is not added to drinking water and other fluoride use is minimal or untraceable. Again, the best protection against this is preventing children from swallowing too much toothpaste or mouthwash with fluoride and not giving supplemental fluoride tablets unless indicated by your child’s dentist.
Hopefully, if you had any fears about fluoride or have ever found yourself wondering is fluoride safe, the above helps assuage those concerns. Fluoride is essential for your dental health and the dental health of your child and experts agree there is a very minimal risk of any kind (cosmetic or general health) when used properly. Since we also do know now – more than ever – that dental health correlates strongly to general health, not giving your kids fluoride stands to be more harmful to them than any potential alternative.