Water fluoridation began in Australia in the 1960’s and has made a significant contribution to improve the oral health of Australians. Along with good oral hygiene and a healthy diet it can help prevent dental decay.
Given the condition back then when there was not a single dental product contained fluoride: no fluoride toothpastes, no fluoride mouth rinses, no fluoride varnishes, and no fluoride gels. In the past 60 years, as more communities began fluoridation and one fluoride product after another entered the market, exposure to fluoride increased considerably, particularly among children.
Exposure from other sources has increased as well, such as infant formula, processed foods, soups, and beer made with fluoridated water, food grown with fluoride-containing pesticides and fumigants, bottled teas, raisins, fruit juices, wine, to name a few. Taken together, the glut of fluoride sources in the modern diet has created a toxic cocktail, one that has caused a dramatic increase in dental fluorosis (a tooth defect caused by excess fluoride intake) over the past 60 years. The problem with fluoride, therefore, is not that we are receiving too little, but that we are receiving too much.
How to Reduce Fluoride Exposure
Stop Drinking Fluoridated Water
Tap water consumption is, on average, the largest daily source of fluoride exposure for people who live in areas that add fluoride to the water. Avoiding consumption of fluoridated water is especially critical for infants. If you live in area which fluoridates its water, you can avoid drinking the fluoride in one of three ways: by using water filters, consuming spring water, and using a water distillation unit.
Don’t Let Your Child Swallow Fluoride Toothpaste
Fluoride toothpaste is often the largest single source of fluoride intake for young children, and is a major risk factor for disfiguring dental fluorosis. This is because children swallow a large amount of the paste that they put in their mouth. In fact, research has shown that it is not uncommon for young children to swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than is recommended as an entire day’s ingestion from all sources. If you have a young child, therefore, we recommend that you use a non-fluoride toothpaste. If, however, you do use fluoride toothpaste, it’s very important that you supervise your children while they brush to make sure they use no more than a “pea-sized amount” of paste, and that they fully rinse and spit after they finish.
Avoid Getting Fluoride Gel Treatments at the Dentist
Although dental researchers have stated on numerous occasions that fluoride gel treatment should only be used for patients at highest risk of cavities, many dentists continue to apply fluoride gels irrespective of the patient’s cavity risk. The fluoride gel procedure requires the patient to clamp down on a tray for 4 minutes and uses an extremely concentrated, acidic fluoride gel. Because of the fluoride gel’s high acidity, the saliva glands produce a large amount of saliva during the treatment, which makes it extremely difficult (both for children and adults) to avoid swallowing the gel.
Eat More Fresh Food, Less Processed Food
When water is fluoridated, it is not just the water that is fluoridated, but all beverages and foods that are made with the water. As a general rule, therefore, the more processed a food is, the more fluoride it has. The good news is that the naturally occurring levels of fluoride in most fresh water (e.g., spring water) and most fresh food (e.g., fruits, vegetables, grain, eggs, milk) is very low. Use this fact to your advantage by trying to shift as much as you can from processed foods to fresh. Also, since processed beverages (e.g., sodas, reconstituted juices, sports drinks) contribute far more to fluoride intake than processed foods, it is most important to focus on reducing your consumption of processed beverages.
Buy Organic Grape Juice and Wine
If you regularly drink non-organic wine or grape juice consider buying only organic varieties. Many commercially-grown grapes in the US are sprayed with a fluoride pesticide called Cryolite. The residues of this pesticide can result in high levels of fluoride in wine or grape juice. In the case of wine, if you don’t want to spend the extra money buying organic, consider purchasing a European brand instead of a Californian brand, as Europe uses much less cryolite on its vineyards.
Reduce Black & Green Tea Consumption
Be careful of drinking too much tea, particularly bottled and instant varieties. The tea plant accumulates high levels of fluoride, and excess intake of tea is known to cause a painful bone disease called skeletal fluorosis. Some teas, however, contain high levels of health-boosting anti-oxidants, which are not only good for health in general, but help to protect against fluoride toxicity.
Avoid Cooking with Non-Stick (Teflon) Pans
Some research has found that cooking with Teflon-coated pans (i.e., stick-free pans) can significantly increase the fluoride content of food. If you have Teflon pans, therefore, consider switching to stainless steel.