There’s an old riddle that asks: Name a poison people ingest on a daily basis. The answer? Fluoride. Fluoride is most notably found in toothpaste and municipal drinking water. But it can also be found in certain foods. While most of us aren’t necessarily ingesting fluoride by the gallon on a daily basis, there is some concern that children in particular may be at risk for ingesting too much fluoride. Reach for any toothpaste tube and you’ll see a clear warning label: “Keep out of reach of children under the age of 6.”

Most children use more toothpaste than they need when brushing, and studies have shown nearly half of all children swallow toothpaste, rather than spitting or rinsing it from the mouth. Swallowing more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste daily could put your child at risk for dental fluorosis (one of the first signs of fluoride poisoning), which causes brown spots, pitting and white specks on the teeth. If your child is also ingesting fluoride from other sources, such as drinking water, food or mouthwash, his risk for dental fluorosis increases, as well as a host of other potential health problems. Other tissues in the body may also be affected by early-life exposures to fluoride. According to a review published in the medical journal The Lancet, fluoride may damage the developing brain, causing learning deficits and other problems. A more recent review by a team of Harvard scientists stated that most studies investigating fluoride’s effect on IQ have found reductions in intelligence. According to the NRC, fluoride is an “endocrine disrupter.” The NRC has warned that doses of fluoride of 0.01-0.03 mg/kg/day – achievable by drinking fluoridated water – may reduce the function of the thyroid among individuals with low-iodine intake.

Reduction of thyroid activity can lead to loss of mental acuity, depression and weight gain. Additional studies have shown correlations between fluoride consumption and:

• Bone damage– osteoporosis, easy bone fractures, osteofluorosis

• Higher than normal birth defects or cancer in an area • Nervous system malfunctions

• Learning disabilities; lower than normal IQ test scores in children (fluoride is more toxic than lead)

• Cardiovascular problems such as arrthymias • Signs of early Alzheimer’s in the elderly, such as disorientation

• A tendency to have kidney problems

While water fluoridation is often credited with causing the reduction in tooth decay that has occurred in the U.S. over the past 50 years, it’s important to note the same reductions in tooth decay have occurred in all western countries, most of which have never added fluoride to their water. The vast majority of Western Europe has rejected water fluoridation. Yet, according to comprehensive data from the World Health Organization, their tooth decay rates are just as low, and, in fact, often lower than the tooth decay rates in the U.S. Five studies published since 2000 have reported no increase in tooth decay in communities that have ceased water fluoridation. Research has shown that the benefits of fluoride for oral health are achieved only with topical application, not from ingestion. Topical application of fluoride can be done during your child’s routine dental cleanings. Fluorosis can be prevented by monitoring all sources of fluoride. For children, the critical period of exposure is between the ages of 1 and 4, with the risk ending around age 8. Switching to a fluoride-free toothpaste such as Tom’s of Maine, Burt’s Bees Kids “Berry Bee” fluoride-free toothpaste, and Jason’s Natural Toothpaste, can help to limit risk and is a great first step. Additionally, limiting your child’s tap water consumption during those critical first years can also be helpful. Fluoride can occur naturally in water in concentrations well above recommended levels. Be aware that even bottled water can contain some fluoride, but it’s often in unknown amounts. Water filters can be helpful in removing added fluoride from drinking water at home.

Edit Dr. Lance editNow at Rutledge’s Back to Wellness, Dr. Haley Lance holds an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences from Auburn University and received her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life University in Marietta. Dr. Lance takes an integrative approach to with patients, drawing on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology and nutrition to help bring the body back into balance. A mother herself, Dr. Lance has a special interest in pediatric care, as well as the pre- and post-natal care of women. Back to Wellness is located at 113 Fairplay Street Rutledge, GA 30663 and can be reached at 706-557-0211.