Fluoride: harmful to health?

Fluoride is included in many toothpastes because it is designed to harden enamel and protect teeth from decay. However, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the use of fluoridated dental care products. It is sometimes feared that the regular use of such products can have a negative impact on our health. Miss Dr. Sabine Köhler, President of the Medical Advisory Service for Dentists (MDZ), reveals in an interview whether fluoride is actually harmful.

What is fluoride?

Fluorides are the salts of hydrogen fluoride. They occur in different ways in nature. In small quantities they are contained in drinking and mineral water as well as in various foods - for example tea, sea fish and mussels. In addition, fluoride-enriched table salt is commercially available. Fluoride cures the enamel and can thereby reduce the risk of caries. That's why it's also in most toothpastes.

This is how fluoride protects the teeth

Fluorides protect our teeth in a variety of ways. On the one hand, they interfere with the metabolism of caries-promoting bacteria in the mouth and ensure that they produce less acid. This benefits our teeth because the acids attack the enamel and dissolve components such as calcium out of the teeth (demineralization).

In addition, fluorides also promote the incorporation of minerals from the saliva into the enamel (remineralization). As a result, small damages in the enamel are repaired quickly and the caries risk decreases.

However, the use of fluoridated dental care products is only one of three important pillars of our dental health. In addition, regular, careful removal of dental plaque and reduced intake of sugary products are of great importance.

Various fluoridation measures

Today, there is a wide range of fluoride-containing dental care products. This includes

  • fluoridated toothpastes
  • fluoridated mouthwashes
  • fluoridated dental floss
  • fluoride-containing gels
  • fluoride varnishes

While most personal care products are suitable for home use, fluoride varnishes are applied by the dentist or as part of professional teeth cleaning.

In addition to the above-mentioned products, the use of fluoride tablets may be useful in a few isolated cases. Before you reach for such tablets, however, you should consult with your dentist.

Is fluoride harmful?

The use of fluoride-containing dental care products is controversial. Advocates emphasize the beneficial effects of fluoride on our dental health and assure that when used properly, there is no risk of fluoride dental care products. Opponents warn against it, because it is said to be harmful to our health.

Dr. Sabine Köhler, President of the Medical Advisory Service for Dentists (MDZ), explains in an interview whether the use of fluoridated dental care products actually entails risks and which alternative dental care options exist.

Are there any risks when using fluoridated dental care products?

Dr. Köhler: "No, there are no health risks associated with the correct use of such products - the amount of fluoride contained in toothpastes is negligible, and fluoride is often confused with fluorine, which is a highly toxic gas.

Therefore, some people are afraid of fluoride poisoning. However, such poisoning can only occur if fluoride is taken up in very large quantities. For example, a child weighing 15 kilograms would have to eat 300 fluoride tablets at once to prevent symptoms of intoxication. "

What side effects can occur when taking fluoride in large quantities?

Dr. Köhler: "If too much fluoride is taken up, it can lead to so-called fluorosis, which causes white spots on the enamel, but such a change in the enamel can only occur during the period of tooth formation it no longer comes to a fluorosis.

Fluorosis is usually caused by children not only using a fluoridated toothpaste but also given fluoride tablets. That's why today, unlike in the past, children no longer receive fluoride tablets for caries prophylaxis. "

What are the current recommendations for children and adults regarding the use of fluoridated dental care products?

Dr. Köhler: "Adults should clean their teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste twice a day, and in children, a child's toothpaste containing only a small amount of fluoride may be used from about the age of two.

Children should first be given little toothpaste on the toothbrush. Then it is not bad if a little bit of it is swallowed. Since children no longer receive additional fluoride tablets, there is no risk of ingesting too much fluoride.

As soon as children can spit out properly, they can share their parents' toothpaste. So-called adult creams have a slightly higher fluoride content - usually between 0.1 and 0.15 percent. "

What additional options are there for adults with an increased caries risk?

Dr. Köhler: "Adults who have an increased risk of caries can use fluoride-containing toothpaste as well as other fluoride-based dental care products, such as brushing their teeth with a special fluoride gel once a week, as well as fluoride floss and mouthwash fluoride daily or weekly, to choose from. "

What alternative dental care options are there for people who do not want to use fluoridated products?

Dr. Köhler: "For them, it is particularly important to pay attention to a tooth-friendly diet, acid attacks on the teeth by sodas, juices or dry wines should be avoided as far as possible from fluoride-containing toothpastes, is not yet available. "

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