Excuse me, Dr. Corrielli? How many cavities did you find in my three kids? 15? Yikes. That trip to the dentist wasn’t fun. Somehow we had managed to be cavity-free for years but, clearly, the tide has turned.
I left the pediatric dentist’s office with numerous appointments for the upcoming weeks and a toothpaste called Clinpro 5000 containing 1.1% of fluoride. Dr. Corrielli told us that our 5 year-old shouldn’t use it, as she is too young to rinse and spit carefully enough. But my boys, 9 and 7, were instructed to use the heavy-duty toothpaste at night, rinse extremely well, and definitely not eat or drink anything after brushing until the morning.
Over the years, I have read various reports that question the safety of fluoride. But I have also read that fluoride is proven to reduce cavities. And who wants cavities? My kids have been using Tom’s of Maine fluoride toothpaste, the most eco-friendly toothpaste I could find. But now they have cavities and a super dose of fluoride in hand. Was it safe to use? I wasn’t sure what to do.
Kids Are Not Little Adults
Thank goodness conscientious (or, as my husband might say, anxious) parents can call Mount Sinai Children Environmental Health Center (CEHC) hotline number 866-265-6201 where you can speak with an expert regarding questions on toxins and how they affect your child’s health.
According to Dr. Philip Landrigan, the CEHC Program Director, “Children are not simply ‘little adults.’ Exposures in early life can affect human health over the entire life span. We need to find definitive answers about the relationship between toxic chemicals and health so we can protect our children now and in the future.” The center is currently researching the environmental causes of childhood diseases such as asthma, learning disabilities, autism, obesity and childhood cancer.
I left a message at the center and got a call back from the wonderfully patient and calm Dr. Amir Miodovnik. He started out reiterating that fluoride is proven to reduce cavities. He also noted that anything can be toxic, it just depends on the level of exposure.
He asked about my concerns and what studies had I been looking at on the web. I had stumbled across an article from the Canadian Globe and Mail suggesting a connection between bone cancer and fluoride. We discussed weeding through claims on the Internet and determining relevant studies that have been peer-reviewed in reputable journals.
He indicated that the few high-quality studies on fluoride offer mixed results. Part of the problem is that most of the population is exposed to fluoride and, thankfully, cases of bone cancer are extremely rare.
Eco-Friendly Vs. Uber-Fluoride
Ultimately, he recommended using the fluoride toothpaste as directed by Dr. Corrielli. We discussed why my kids had gotten so many cavities. Some of it is clearly genetic. My kids have big teeth and small mouths so there is lots of crowding. We had gotten a little lax on the flossing and probably eaten a few too many gummy vitamins (something that we won’t be doing anymore).
My husband questioned whether the Tom’s toothpaste worked. But a quick comparison to the conventional toothpaste showed basically the same percentage of fluoride. And Tom’s contains no saccharin, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colors or flavors. Tom’s still has my vote.
Dr. Miodovnik also stated, “Overall, the actual risk of bone cancer in children is extremely low and the fluoride in municipal water in New York is tightly regulated, so the overall additional risk of health effects associated with fluoride, if it were truly a risk factor for these effects, would still be very small.”
Nothing can stop me from worrying about my kids’ health, but at least I got some great advice regarding fluoride and have a game plan going forward. I’m hoping (fingers crossed) that our next appointment will be cavity-free.
Have to go now. Time to brush and floss my children’s teeth…
Francesca Olivieri is co-founder of sage baby, an online eco-friendly baby store offering everything from organic clothes and skin care to furniture. She also runs a green consulting business; blogs for The Family Groove and Scenic Hudson; and contributes to Daily Candy Kids, YogaCity, Citiscoop, and NRDC’s Simple Steps. Please visit her website at FrancescaOlivieri.com.