Dentists face many challenging tasks.
You are a medical care provider, but if you own a dental practice, you also need to be business minded. It’s imperative that patients receive top-quality care, but you are also trying to manage a team. Each and every new person who sits down in your chair is a new personality and has individual needs and perspectives.
Without a doubt, being a dentist is not for the faint of heart. (And we didn’t even touch on the level of schooling, intelligence, and passion you need just to provide good dental care!)
So it’s little wonder that when your patient mentions they’re using a fluoride-free toothpaste because they heard the mineral is bad for you, your patience is already thin.
Today, we’re going to help you tackle this increasingly relevant issue, including inspiration for informational materials your dental practice can use to explain the necessity of fluoride to patients. Let’s dive in.
Why Are Patients Worried About Fluoride?
Before we help you figure out how to educate patients, let’s discuss the origin of the problem. We probably have greenwashing to blame. Greenwashing villainizes various ingredients as a marketing tactic that scares consumers into buying “clean” or “nontoxic” products..
There is something positive to be said about your patients becoming more aware of what they are consuming and using to care for their bodies. But greenwashing too often ignores science and instead makes beneficial products seem dangerous. Consumers are then motivated by fear to purchase the “green” (and, often much pricier) alternative.
Remember that this isn’t only happening through the traditional avenues of advertising. Viewers might not take what a commercial says about their toothpaste as gospel.
But when their favorite YouTube or TikTok creator says the same, and claims to have done their own research … it can start to feel like “everyone” is “waking up” to the bad side of an ingredient. And no one wants to be “that person” who ignored the latest advice and insights about their health.
Of course, what people don’t always realize or want to believe is that the influencer they trust was likely paid to say what they did. It’s a greenwasher’s game.
On top of this, conspiracy theories about fluoride being a substance used by the government to pacify or control the population have been circulating on social media for some time. While such ideas used to be reserved to a smaller group of conspiracy theorists, social media has made the wider spread of these ideas run rampant.
How to Approach Your Patient’s Concerns
Feeling irritated that you have to explain the benefits of fluoride is understandable. After all, fluoride has been critical to effective oral care for a long time. Not to mention, it can be annoying to have patients question your expertise on something so fundamental to your trade.
That said, try to remember that all of the sources of fluoride misinformation are based on one powerful emotion: fear.
Whether via greenwashed marketing or a conspiracy theory video a friend shared on TikTok, the anti-fluoride discussion is meant to scare and influence consumers. Knowing that, you can better empathize with your patient. Your patient isn’t trying to insult your education or knowledge base. In all likelihood, they are just genuinely worried about damaging their health with dangerous ingredients.
Try to enter into this conversation with patience, understanding, and warmth. You can absolutely explain the pros of fluoride in a kind yet empathetic way.
Here Are the Points to Cover at Your Dental Practice
In having these fluoride discussions with patients, you’ll want to make sure you feel confident about the presentation of your argument. Why? Because skeptical patients will feel nervous about the validity of your perspective if you seem unorganized, unsure, or anxious.
Mentally practice (or practice saying out loud) the following fluoride discussion points:
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs in our soil, water, and air. All water contains some fluoride long before anyone is purifying or processing it.
You might hear people talk about protecting or improving enamel by “remineralizing” the tooth with trendy ingredients. But Fluoride is the original enamel strengthener with decades of research to support it.
Most anything consumable can be dangerous at some level. But the amount of toothpaste used to brush contains just 1.3 mg of fluoride that you don’t even swallow. This is far from enough to be toxic.
Modern diets demand that we use fluoride regularly. Humans didn’t originally need to supplement it because they were eating truly “clean” in a way that no diet can replicate today. We now have refined sugars in just about everything we consume—even down to our bread. We battle the resulting cavity increase by adding fluoride to dental hygiene products.
A Different Approach
If you read all of that and felt creeping anxiety over the idea of a heated discussion developing with your patient, we’ve got you covered. Instead, how nice would it be to simply say, “I totally understand where your concerns are coming from, but can we send you home with this fluoride booklet so you can read our expert take on it when you have a chance?”
This phrasing can ease the conversation for dental professionals and their patients. Some patients don’t like confrontation and will appreciate something they can calmly look into further at home.
But what should that booklet contain? Using the expertise of our founder, Dr. Brett Wells, and the writing chops of our marketing team, we’ve put together content you can use in a booklet, brochure, or even a blog post on the benefits of fluoride. You’re welcome!
Free Educational Copy for Dental Practices: Fluoride Explained
The Question of Fluoride
If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you had some concerns about our practice’s use and recommendation of fluoride. And we understand why you are worried!
Despite the fact that fluoride has been used and studied for decades, the modern tactic of greenwashed marketing* and the virality of social media have brought fluoride under new scrutiny and attack.
Critical thinking is a good thing. But when we allow manipulative marketing to guide our decisions rather than the advice of medical experts, problems can arise.
*Greenwashing = a tactic in which commonly utilized ingredients are branded as “toxic” so that products with alternative ingredients can be labeled “clean” or “natural” and sold at a higher price point as a result.
So, let’s talk about the truth of fluoride.
Is Fluoride Toxic?
As with most things, the answer isn’t black and white. Yes, fluoride can be toxic in certain volumes. No, you aren’t consuming enough for that to be the case for you.
According to studies cited by the National Library of Medicine, “The acute toxic dose range is 5 to 8 mg for every kg of body weight.” (Rizwan Ullah) Doing the math for you, this means that a 100lb person would need to consume 227 - 364mg of fluoride to be toxic.
Now consider that a squirt of toothpaste contains only 1.3 mg on average—and you don’t even swallow it!
Why Do I Need Fluoride?
Even if you know that fluoride isn’t dangerous, you might be wondering why you should bother including fluoride in your oral care routine.
Here is the hard truth: Our food isn’t what it used to be. You might not be digging into candy and cake every day, but even your loaf of bread has refined sugar too. Even if you grew all of your own organic produce and ate only that, the degradation of our soil over time has completely changed the nutrient and mineral density.
This means two things:
A) Your teeth have to battle a much higher volume of sugar than your ancestors’ teeth did. Fluoride is the key to doing this effectively.
B) You probably won’t receive as much natural fluoride from produce as humans once did.
While we’re on the note of “natural fluoride,” let’s be clear … the irony of greenwashing against fluoride is that fluoride really *is* the natural choice. It is a mineral that exists in soil, water, and air.
You know how you aren’t supposed to drink water that has gone through reverse osmosis on a regular basis because the process removes all of the minerals you're supposed to be giving your body by drinking water? Well, fluoride is one of those minerals.
On top of these factors, fluoride can be a tool in protecting and restoring enamel. Greenwashing campaigns have often used the idea of “remineralizing” the tooth as a draw for “natural” products containing ingredients they claim will do the job. But in reality, fluoride is the mineral to remineralize all minerals!
So, ditch the overpriced, manipulatively marketed “green” product and turn back to the original mineral, which, let’s not forget, your 95-year-old grandmother has used practically her whole life.
All of this said, we love that you are doing your own research into what is and isn’t good for you. If you have any questions, our team is happy to answer them by phone or email.
[End pamphlet with the contact info for your dental practice and logo here]
The “war on fluoride,” as you might call it, has become a surprisingly emotionally-charged topic. As a dentist, it is your job to inform and educate, connect and inspire. You definitely don’t want to alienate your patients by seeming irritated or condescending. But your dental practice must also be a voice of reason.
We hope the copy and talking points we’ve provided here can help you with future fluoride conversations with concerned patients! Together, we can bring everyone to a place of greater oral health.