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fluoride vs. fluoride free toothpaste – a brusher’s right to choose

hello team member
by connie gregson , friendly head of r+d at hello products

fluoride vs fluoride free

we get it: adulting can be hard, and this whole fluoride debate thing isn’t helping. so, we’ve assembled the research to help you decide which tube to call your main squeeze. if you’re feeling swishy-washy, the important thing to realize is that there isn’t a “wrong” choice. while most people grow up thinking their toothpaste must have fluoride to be effective, it turns out that it’s not absolutely essential for whitening or cleaning your teeth.

we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves though. first, let’s start with the basics of fluoride and your oral health.

what exactly is fluoride?

ok, let’s brush up: fluoride is a natural mineral that’s proven to be effective in preventing tooth decay and the development of cavities. it’s found naturally in some foods and some fresh water sources like lakes and rivers. even some ocean water contains fluoride (yeah, even fluoride loves the beach). because fluoride has been shown to be so effective at fighting cavities, today it’s added to many US municipal water supplies.

brief history of fluoride 

the story of fluoride began in Colorado Springs in 1901. a young dentist named Frederick McKay was intrigued and confused by brown stains affecting the teeth of local folk. he was further puzzled when he found that rates of dental cavities were far lower in people who experienced this brown staining. it took 30 years of sleuthing and sampling, but eventually McKay and his colleagues determined that the tooth stains were linked to the local Colorado Springs water supply.

how much fluoride is safe? 

mcKay & Co. were also able to confirm the stains were specifically caused by fluoride being present in the water. subsequent studies in the 1930s and 1940s revealed that just a very small amount of fluoride in the drinking water supply was enough to significantly lower the prevalence of dental cavities without resulting in tooth browning for most people. this was a huge step forward in the power of dental preventative medicine! to this day, a small dollop of fluoride is added to many US water supplies.

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fluoride benefits for your teeth

ask your dentist, mom, or 7-year-old niece and they’ll tell you that preventing cavities is one of the primary reasons to maintain good dental hygiene. and when it comes to cavity prevention, fluoride is beneficial in two ways. the first benefit is enamel remineralization, which means that when fluoride is absorbed by the enamel on your teeth, it attracts minerals to your teeth as well, helping to keep them hard. the second way fluoride helps is by protecting your teeth during the demineralization process.

fluoride never sleeps! it begins to strengthen your tooth enamel before your chompers even break through your gums. and then it keeps working on an ongoing, topical basis. whenever you brush with a fluoride toothpaste or consume foods or beverages that contain fluoride, it’s strengthening weak spots in your enamel and helping to protect teeth from acid attacks. thanks, fluoride!

is fluoride in toothpaste good or bad?

fluoride in toothpaste is good. the medical community recommends that you brush your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. an overview by the center for disease control (CDC) authored by more than 25 dental professionals concluded that “all persons should receive frequent exposure to small amounts of fluoride…” while going on to note that this fluoride exposure can come from drinking water sources and toothpaste. so yeah, fluoride is kind of a big deal.

why use fluoride free toothpaste if you’re an adult?

some people choose to go fluoride free as grown-ups. this is typically due to concerns over the volume of fluoride they are already exposed to. as we mentioned, most municipal water supply is treated with fluoride, and some feel that the quantities of the mineral they get from their water are enough for them. 

does fluoride prevent tooth decay?

yes, fluoride helps prevent tooth decay – in fact, since 1950 the American Dental Association has backed fluoride as “safe, effective and necessary in preventing tooth decay”. By strengthening enamel and slowing its breakdown, fluoride limits the ability for plaque and bacteria to go to work on your teeth. fluoride = stronger enamel, less cavities, happier mouths.

fluoride is most effective against cavities when applied directly to the teeth and may have minimal cavity-prevention effects when swallowed in drinking water. when used as directed, minimizing that amount that is swallowed, fluoride toothpaste is safe and effective.

at hello, we respect a brusher’s right to choose. so if fluoride is your bag, we’re down with that, and if you want to go fluoride free, we’re totally down with that too. we’re into oral care, and we’re not into being judgmental (or judgdental—see what we did there?). what we’re totally not into are cavities. Our fluoride free products contain xylitol, and in our products it is derived from non-genetically engineered corn. in addition to its sweetness, xylitol also helps prevent bacteria from sticking to your pearly whites. yeah, it’s pretty sweet, but in a good way.

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our tube cents

we weren’t kidding when we said we believe in a brusher’s right to choose. that’s why we offer our toothpastes and mouthwashes in fluoride and fluoride free varieties. if you’d like a personalized assessment of whether you and/or your fam are getting too much or too little fluoride, we’d recommend that you chat with your dentist or pediatrician.