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Fluoridated Toothpaste

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Over the past two years in the United States, people have started to notice the word "poison" on their fluoridated toothpaste labels, as well as a warning to contact a poison-control centre immediately if more than what should be used for brushing is accidentally swallowed!

Over the past two years in the United States, people have started to notice the word "poison" on their fluoridated toothpaste labels, as well as a warning to contact a poison-control centre immediately if more than what should be used for brushing is accidentally swallowed!

Canada doesn't have such warnings, although fluoride remains one of the most toxic substances known to man between arsenic and lead on the toxicity scale and is the subject of great scrutiny in the US as well as in some parts of Canada.

Some health professionals fear that a large number of children, especially those residing in areas with fluoridated tap water, are over-fluoridated. The visible manifestation of this condition is dental fluorosis, an unsightly mottling and speckling of the teeth. There are no warning signs for dental fluorosis. Mottled spots on teeth start off white, then turn
brown. Teeth become weak and brittle. They also chip and decay more easily.

In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, Dr Hardy Lime-back, head of preventative dentistry at the University of Toronto's faculty of dentistry states: "We know for sure that kids who ingest more than the optimum amount [of] before the age of six will have fluorosis on their permanent teeth."

Hidden Poison

Fluoridated tap water is not the only cause of dental fluorosis. Children are ingesting fluoride in a great many ways that are often not obvious to parents. Many of the beverages that we drink, including juices, pop and bottled water are prepared or reconstituted with fluoridated water. All teas, including green and black teas, naturally contain fluoride. Tea leaves accumulate more fluoride (from pollution of soil and air) than any other edible plant and some brands possess as much as six times the amount of fluoride per cup that most children should be exposed to in a day.

Certain foods contain chemical fluoride, including some brands of milk, soup, bologna, canned tuna and baby food. Vegetables are often washed and cooked in fluoridated water. Many oral care products, such as toothpastes and mouth rinses, contain fluoride. In addition, some children ingest fluoride from yearly dental treatments, chewable tablets and drops that are recommended by dentists. It is no wonder that they are over-fluoridated. In fact, one out of five children under the age of six gets fluorosis.

In a Newsweek article, Dr Charles Gordon Heyd, past-president ofjjthe American Medical Association said, "Fluoride is 'a'.corrosive poison that may produce serious effects on a l6naa?ange basis. Any attempt to use water [for] is deplorable."

Little is known about the cummula-tive effects of fluoride exposure because there have never been any long-term studies conducted. As Dr Hardy Limeback states, "Fluoride may be destroying our bones, our teeth and overall health."

Fluoride Fight

Some people are bravely taking a stand against fluoride use. Many American cities have rejected fluoride in their tap water. In Canada, Vancouver and Victoria water supplies have never been fluoridated. Other cities in British Columbia including Kelowna, Sarnia and Kitimat have said "no" to fluoride. Smithers took an anti-fluoride stance in January 2000 after almost 50 years of artificial water fluoridation. Residents of Whitehorse, the Yukon capital, also recently refused the addition of fluoride to their city's drinking water.

The American Dental Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have changed their views on fluoride and now recommend that infants avoid fluoridated water and children under five years brush only with water. The Food and Drug Administration calls fluoride an "unapproved drug."

Nevertheless, many medical professionals continue to follow the old recommendations:

  • Young children under five should never swallow toothpaste and should be supervised by an adult when brushing;
  • Keep toothpaste out of the reach of small children;
  • For children under six, use only a small pea-size dab of toothpaste;
  • Children under two should brush with only a thin smear of toothpaste;
  • Only children at high risk of getting cavities (including those in Third World countries who do not receive any fluoride whatsoever) need fluoride supplements, even those living in non-fluoridated areas.

Pediatric dentists further suggest scheduling a child's first dental visit before the age of one year or at the time when their first baby tooth appears.

Have a chat with your dentist or doctor regarding the amount of fluoride present in your city's tap water. You can also call your city's water department to find out what the level of fluoride is in your area. Make your dentist aware of the total amount of fluoride that your child may be receiving from other sources. Check with your dentist before administering fluoride supplements to your child, especially if you reside in an area with fluoridated tap water. Be prepared to ask your dentist a lot of questions on this issue. If you are not satisfied, don't accept a standard brush-off.

The good news is that changes are set to be made in the near future. Soon you may see fluoride levels and warnings indicated on your city's water bill, as well as new labelling rules which require manufacturers to list a product's fluoride content. So don't be surprised if you too start seeing the word "poison" appear on your toothpaste label.

Canadian Fluoride Recommendations

In April 2000, the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) wrote a letter to its members concerning its latest review of fluoride. In affiliation with the Medical Services Branch of Health Canada, the CDA now recommends the following for fluoride use in children:

  • Under three years of age, brush without tooth paste or clean with a cloth twice a day
  • From three to six years, brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste twice a day
  • Ages six and older, brush with a pea-sized amount of fluoridated toothpaste twice a day. Weekly fluoride rinse.

The Canadian Dental Association and the Medical Services Branch of Health Canada does not recommend the use of fluoride supplements (drops or tablets). The above guidelines are applicable in communities with fluoridated and non-fluoridated water supplies

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