Fluoride Action Network

Allergy to Fluoride Toothpaste – Additional Info

FAN Science Watch | April 5, 2004 | By Michael Connett

In response to the previous bulletin (which discussed a new report on allergy to fluoride toothpaste), Dr. Albert Burgstahler, Editor of the journal Fluoride, writes:

“In the 1960s I personally experienced the problem (with “Crest”) and quickly “cured” it by switching to a nonfluoridated dentifrice. I found others in my circle of acquaintances who were similarly affected and then relieved. Later formulations of many fluoridated toothpastes are sometimes less irritating to oral tissues.”

Burgstahler also notes that allergic responses to fluoridated toothpastes was an issue discussed in the 1978 book, Fluoridation: The Great Dilemma, which he co-authored with the late George Waldbott and H. Lewis McKinney.

Among many other things, The Great Dilemma documents the experience of Dr. William P. Murphy, the 1934 Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine. In 1965, Murphy wrote to Dr. Waldbott, describing observations of a fluoride allergy in one of his patients. Murphy noted that:

“after moving she started using a fluoride tooth paste at which time she developed a rash on her cheeks and mouth with swelling of the face. After stopping this tooth paste this condition cleared up completely.”

Additional Reports on Allergy to Fluoride Toothpaste

One of the first reports on allergic responses to fluoride toothpaste appeared in the September 1957 issue of the journal Northwest Medicine.

In the report, Thomas Douglas M.D., a doctor from Seattle, described his observations of 133 patients who had developed stomatitis (canker sores) after using fluoridated toothpaste. To test his hypothesis that fluoride was the cause, Douglas conducted multiple tests with 32 of the 133 patients. According to Douglas, the results were clear. The canker sores would appear after the introduction of the fluoride paste, and disappear after its termination. In some of the patients, Douglas confirmed the same result 6 times.

However, as he noted, the symptoms would often become more severe, and more difficult to treat, the more times the patient reverted back to the fluoride toothpaste.

According to Douglas:

“Treatment of these lesions is rather simple in the early stages – namely, changing to a dentrifice which does not contain fluoride.”


“[T]he longer the patient had used the fluoride dentrifice, the more chance he had of showing general involvement of the entire oral and pharyngeal regions… Those patients who had repeated courses of fluoride testing proved to be very grave problems indeed. In fact, some of them became so resistant to clearing of the oral lesions that I began to wonder if the lesions had not become irreversible. Duration from the time we actually commenced trying to rid the patients of their lesions until actual improvement was noted, was, indeed, very prolonged in those who had three, four or more courses of fluoride testing. The period from partial clearing to complete clearing of the lesions was even more prolonged and uncertain.”

Douglas concluded by stating that:

“Repeated insults with the fluoride dentrifices produced increasingly severe excoriations. There seem to be nothing specific about the lesions to differentiate them from other diseases of an oral nature. The main diagnostic requisite seems to be the ability to think of and elicit a history of dental fluoride hygiene.”

10 years later, Douglas’ findings would be further substantiated by double-blind tests published in the Annals of Allergy (Shea 1967). In addition to stomatitis, these latter double blind tests also found a connection between fluoride and urticaria (hives) as well as gastro-intestinal problems – the latter of which Douglas had suspected.

Finally, I thought I’d close on a personal anecdote. Last fall I met a man (DW) here in Burlington Vermont, who informed me that – after years of experiencing skin problems around his mouth – he no longer experienced the problem as of the summer. While he was aware of the improvement, he never knew what the source of the improvement was, until it dawned on him when reading an article on fluoride in the local paper.

In the summer of 2003, DW had purchased a non-fluoride toothpaste, and had continued using it ever since. At the time, he never thought that this might help his skin problem, but looking back, he thinks it is the only relevant change in his life which might explain the improvement. To this day he remains convinced that the fluoride toothpaste was the cause.