Side Effects of Dental Fluoride Rinses

While fluoride rinses have proven effective in preventing cavities, there are side effects.
While fluoride rinses have proven effective in preventing cavities, there are side effects. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

The use of fluoride as a preventative tooth-decay measure continues to arouse controversy, especially when it comes to the addition of fluoride to drinking water. While critics contend water fluoridation is ineffective at preventing cavities and presents certain health risks, fluoride-based mouth rinses have also come under scrutiny due to associated side effects.

Toxicity of Fluoride

Mainstream dentistry accepts that fluoride is effective at strengthening tooth enamel and preventing cavities. However, fluoride was classified as a toxic substance before being embraced by the dental community in the 1950s as a cavity-prevention aid. Furthermore, water fluoridation has been linked to such health risks as diminishing the immune system, harming muscles and bones, causing genetic damage, harming the thyroid and cancer, all while offering no proven benefits in terms of preventing cavities, according to self-described medial myth-buster Dr. William Douglass.

Fluoride Rinses

According to, fluoride rinse is available under a variety of different brand names and is prescribed by dentists to patients who have a low level of fluoride in their drinking water. It's important that the recommended dosage not be exceeded, as there is a risk of overdose if a large amount of fluoride rinse is swallowed during use. Symptoms of overdose include nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, loss of feeling or convulsions, among other symptoms.

Side Effects also notes that there are several side effects associated with fluoride rinses, which is meant to be spit out after use and never swallowed. These include allergic reactions (such as hives, swelling or breathing difficulty), discoloration in the teeth, upset stomach, headache or a feeling of general weakness. If a user of a fluoride rinse begins to experience any of these, he or she is advised to contact a doctor immediately.

Flouride Rinses and Children

Because these rinses contain sodium fluoride, excessive use and swallowing can lead to fluoride toxicity over a period of time. Because children may have a tendency to swallow mouthwash, it’s advised that a child only use a fluoride rinse under the supervision of a parent or adult. In addition, a child’s lesser body weight also makes them more likely to experience these side effects than an adult. Since many of these rinses also contain alcohol, even a small dose can be dangerous in children under 30 pounds.

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