Is Your Natural Toothpaste Safe?
Dr. Curatola: I like to say that toothpaste was developed by soap companies 100 years ago. Over a hundred years ago, there were tooth powders. Actually, if you look up the history of toothpaste – and I have a son who’s a filmmaker, who’s doing a piece on this right now for me. It is comical. I mean everything from crushed mice skulls, to crushed charcoal, to peelu bark.
So it was always this, I would say, in modern times we’re looking at using a detergent in the mouth. Just like this soap company has made Ivory soap and all these other things and detergent for clothes, we need a detergent for the mouth. So the origin of most of the commercial toothpastes on the market right now has a detergent background.
And what we know is that many of those ingredients in toothpaste, such as sodium lauryl sulfate – I wanted to save the fluoride topic for a moment because fluoride is probably one of the biggest public health disasters of our time. We have fluoridated communities that have higher rates of decay than non-fluoridated communities. Interestingly, fluorine on the periodic table of elements is, I believe, to the right. It’s one of the most highly reactive, non- radioactive elements in the periodic table. So it very, very quickly does things in the body that are not good.
In the late 1940s, the US Military actually – I believe it was in the army – there were studies in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then these went on to further studies showing that the introduction of sodium fluoride stimulated the remineralization of decayed teeth. So we thought that was a good thing.
What we didn’t look at was the type of mineral that fluoride makes. It’s very, very hard, but it’s also very brittle. So your teeth and bones are made of the same thing. Our teeth and bones are made of hydroxyapatite. And hydroxyapatite is an OH-, the hydroxy, and the apatite is an AP+. So hydroxyapatite, when you introduce fluoride, the fluoride molecule is so reactive that it blows out the hydroxy and you make something called fluorapatite. So we thought this was a good thing because we’re making teeth really hard.
But as the orthopedist came to find out, in the 1980s they did a lot of studies about this. They were doing bone fracture rates, and they expected them to go way down from the introduction of fluoridation and fluoride in products like toothpaste and mouthwash. And they actually found an inverse. They found an exponential increase in hip fracture rates because it doesn’t have the flexibility – hydroxyapatite has a certain flexibility that fluorapatite does not.
With that aside, fluoride is highly toxic. As a matter of fact, there is enough sodium fluoride in an average tube of full-sized tube of toothpaste to be lethal to children under 5 years old. And as a matter of fact, in the 1980s, a major toothpaste manufacturer launched a product called Sparkle that was bubblegum-flavored, and it was fluorescent blue and it had sparkles in it. And children were eating it, and fluoride fatalities in children went up 280 percent, which is really frightening. You heard very little about it because there wasn’t something called the internet, or Facebook, or Twitter around that time. So quietly, the FDA became alarmed and they mandated a poison warning on all commercial toothpastes with sodium fluoride.
But, Jay, since that time, so much data has come out about fluoride, including the fact the Center for Disease Control several years back said that 4 out of 10 children in America now had teeth damaged by too much fluoride. They were given fluoride to protect them from decay. With fluorosis, they’re more prone to decay.
So now we have 4 out of 10 children, 41 percent of adolescent children have fluorosis damage to their teeth. And a significant number, thousands of them, have severe fluorosis, which requires extensive dental rehabilitation with porcelain veneers and crowns. A number of these children I’ve treated in my practice here in New York. So fluoride has been an epic disaster. It is really the walls of the fluoride icon are coming down. It was supposed to be the panacea to end all dental ills.
What’s interesting is the sugar companies support it – the fluoridation movement. And the sugar industry is probably the biggest drug industry in the world. We can talk about that, but they even put sugar in toothpaste for a while. But there are toothpastes with sugar substitutes in them right now like saccharine and aspartame, and all these other really toxic chemicals in toothpastes.
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