Fluoride in toothpaste: does it make you sick?

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Fluoride is harmful to health only when overdosed

"Fluoride could make you sick" - Bad news like this keeps coming up in the media. Unsettled consumers wonder whether even the fluoride in toothpaste is harmful to health. According to the current state of knowledge, nobody has anything to fear as long as the trace element is not ingested in a clearly overdosed manner for a long period of time.

Positive effects of fluoride proven Fluoride is contained in almost every toothpaste, as it is supposed to protect against tooth decay and keep teeth white. In addition to these positive properties, fluoride is also said to have a lot of negative effects. It is harmful to health and poison the body, it is often said these days in social networks and newsrooms. However, there is a fear behind it, which is mostly unfounded.

The use of fluoride is based on observations made before the 1970s. At that time, drinking water was practically the only source of fluoride. As it turned out, people who lived in areas where fluoride was naturally present in drinking water had fewer caries than other people. They also had white spots on their teeth. Some countries such as the USA, Australia and Great Britain therefore artificially enriched their drinking water with the trace element. However, compulsory medication did not become established in Germany. Instead, fluoride was added to certain products such as tablets, toothpaste or salt.

In the meantime, numerous scientific studies have proven the positive effect of the trace element. "Those who brush their teeth with good toothpaste containing fluoride can prevent around 40 percent of tooth decay cases with fluoride alone," explains Stefan Zimmer, head of the Chair for Tooth Preservation and Preventive Dentistry at the University of Witten Herdecke, to the magazine "Spiegel Online "The fluoride has a much stronger effect than brushing your teeth." Fluoride protects the enamel by being embedded in its grid and promoting the incorporation of minerals. It protects against harmful acids so that they do not penetrate tooth enamel in the first place. "The benefits have been investigated at the highest scientific level," emphasizes Zimmer. The Stiftung Warentest is also convinced of the positive effect of fluoride, so that toothpastes fail in their tests without the trace element.

Controlling the Daily Intake of Fluoride Despite the positive effect of fluoride on the tooth enamel, the daily fluoride intake should be checked. The example of a British woman shows that the dose is crucial. The 47-year-old woman had drunk several jugs of her favorite drink, black tea, every day for 17 years. In the preparation, she used 100 to 150 tea bags per pot, so that the tea became very strong. Finally, the British woman had to go to the hospital because her teeth were gnawed and her bones were damaged. As it turned out, the fluoride contained in black tea was the cause of the discomfort due to the excessive consumption.

This case is certainly extreme and will be one of the exceptions in this form. Nevertheless, the example shows that the trace element can actually be harmful to health if it is consumed in large amounts. The European Food Authority (Efsa) advises that you consume 0.05 milligrams of fluoride per kilogram of body weight every day. The recommendation applies regardless of age. "Exact supply data for fluoride in Germany are not available, but it can be assumed that this amount will not normally be reached," reports the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) when asked by the magazine. "There is no reason for the total supply of fluoride to worry ".

White spots on the teeth from fluoride are harmless. If there is an overdose of fluoride in children, this is shown by so-called fluoroses. These are white spots or stripes on the teeth that arise because the trace element is also incorporated into the enamel via the bloodstream when the teeth are formed. Children up to the age of six should therefore use a fluoride-reduced toothpaste, experts advise. But even fluoroses are no cause for concern, just a cosmetic problem. Serious damage to teeth and bones only occurs if 10 to 25 milligrams of the trace element are supplied to the body daily for at least ten years, the magazine writes. Such amounts cannot normally be achieved with toothpaste. In Germany, the proportion of fluoride in toothpastes is a maximum of 0.15 percent for adults and a maximum of 0.05 percent for children's toothpaste. "If used properly (i.e. brushing the teeth and then spitting them out, not eating the contents of toothpaste tubes in large quantities), poisoning with toothpaste is not possible due to the small amount of fluoride," reports the BfR. (Ag)

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