In toothpaste stuck loud foreign words: silicate compounds, sodium lauryl sulfate, sorbitol, fluorides. Silicate is the cleaning agent, sodium lauryl sulfate produces the foam, sorbitol prevents the pasta from drying out in the tube. And fluorides? They protect the teeth from caries. Proven.
Nevertheless, headlines repeatedly suggest that fluoride is detrimental: "Fluoride makes you stupid", "Fluoride is toxic", "Fluoride makes our bones fragile" – In 2017, a study from Mexico unsettled parents (Environmental Health Perspectives: Bashash et al., 2017). The study concluded that much fluoride in pregnancy could affect children's intelligence. Media around the world reported this and illustrated their articles with toothpaste, the product that many people associate with fluoride. Should we do without fluoride toothpaste? And is it even harmful to children?
Not at all, says dentist Ulrich Schiffner. He researches and teaches at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf on the topic of tooth preservation. The study, which has shown that fluoride affects children, many journalists had misinterpreted: "The intelligence of the children was in the normal range, so none had at all a diminished intelligence."
In addition, it had never gone in the study to toothpaste – the authors themselves would never have said so. Instead, it should be determined how the substance affects newborns when mothers ingested fluoride through food and drinking water during pregnancy. The fluoride content in Mexican drinking water fluctuates greatly. The citizens can not check it, because it is not recorded regularly. In Germany, this is different: In this country, anyone can check with his water supplier, how much fluoride his drinking water contains.
It is incomprehensible to Schiffner that fluoride is so discredited in Germany. He has long been concerned with the prophylactic effect of the substance on tooth decay and is even of the opinion that children's toothpaste should contain even more than usual.
"It is indisputable that fluoride reduces the resistance of tooth enamel and thus the risk of tooth decay," writes the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in an opinion (BfR, 2018). Without fluoride, the teeth of the Germans would be significantly worse: While about 30 years ago, more than 80 percent of children had tooth decay at the age of twelve, in 2014 it was less than 20 percent (Fifth German Oral Health Study, 2016).
Too much fluoride is not good either
It is true that fluoride is generally a poisonous substance. But as with most substances, here as well: it depends on the dose. Only those who absorb more than five milligrams of fluoride per kilogram of body weight at one go can poison themselves. The symptoms: nausea and abdominal pain. A 15-kilogram child would need to eat about 150 milliliters – two tubes – of children's toothpaste containing 37.5 milligrams of fluoride to reach such a dose (see infobox below). From 30 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, such a poisoning can be fatal – that would correspond to twelve tubes of toothpaste (EFSA, 2006). But if you brush your teeth normally, you do not need to worry about them.
Behind the fear is also a common misunderstanding, the Edmund Maser, toxicology professor at the University of Schleswig-Holstein in an interview with the BR once described impressively: the confusion of fluoride with fluorine: "Fluorine is a very aggressive, toxic
Gas, which is only liquid at minus 180 degrees. It eats through
all materials. But fluorine gas is something other than fluoride. fluoride
is the negatively charged ion, which is relatively harmless with sodium
Salt yields. "
An entirely negative, if not so dangerous, consequence of too much fluoride is permanent white spots on the teeth called fluoroses. If too much fluoride is ingested through the diet during growth, the body builds it excessively into the tooth, making the enamel less resistant. However, this danger only exists as long as the teeth are still growing – that is, until about the age of eight.
In Germany, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of children have mild forms of fluorosis (BfR, 2018). They occur when the offspring permanently ingests more than 0.1 milligrams of fluoride per kilogram of body weight. Will this value
Extremely exceeded, it can come to skeletal fluorosis: The
Bones then become susceptible to breakage.