Using a fluoride-free toothpaste leaves you at a greater risk of cavities. This is according to a new study published in the dental journal Gerodontology that reviewed the scientific literature on fluoride vs. fluoride-free toothpaste and cavities.
This new review, which looked at previous studies, showed that there was “no impact” on cavity reduction from simply brushing or flossing without fluoride. Some experts believe that the major benefit of fluoride toothpaste is that the act of brushing serves as a “delivery system” for the fluoride.
The review showed that municipally-fluoridated water is also beneficial because two of the studies took place in non-fluoridated communities. Also, two of the trials used strict protocols involving daily supervised plaque staining and removal (plaque-disclosing tablets) reported a significant reduction in gingivitis but not of cavities.
Toothbrushing did reduce swollen gums according to the review, and brushing the teeth may also dislodge stuck food and help patients recover from oral surgery.
While the idea that brushing alone doesn’t prevent cavities has been largely accepted by dental experts, the general public doesn’t seem to be fully aware. The internet is full of claims that fluoride-free toothpaste is also effective at preventing cavities or that fluoride itself may be harmful. The consensus among dental experts is now stronger that neither claim is accurate.
The review also cited a 2009 analysis of studies involving 60,000 people that found fluoride rinse prevents cavities about as well as fluoride toothpaste.
While most toothpastes contain fluoride, more people are using a fluoride-free toothpaste, though it is believed that less than 5% of people are using a non-fluoride toothpaste.
It should also be noted that some dentists say the most effective way to prevent cavities is to simply reduce sugars in your diet.