Stannous Fluoride vs. Sodium Fluoride - Public Goods Blog

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Stannous Fluoride vs. Sodium Fluoride

By 2024, the global toothpaste industry is expected to be worth $36.98 billion.

tube of public goods toothpaste, bamboo toothbrush with toothpaste on the wet bristles

But do we know what we’re actually putting in our bodies when we use toothpaste?

During a visit to the dentist or while in the toothpaste aisle, you’ve likely come across fluoride. It’s the most widely used chemical for dental hygiene, whether you’re purchasing toothpaste, visiting the dentist, or even drinking tap water.
But are there any dangers of stannous fluoride you should be concerned about? Is stannous fluoride safe? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

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What Is Stannous Fluoride?

Stannous fluoride is a chemical compound used in toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent dental decay. You may have encountered stannous fluoride at your dentist’s office too, as it’s often used in foam or pastes for one-off treatments. They might use the term “stannous fluoride dentifrice” to describe the product, but that’s really just something like a toothpaste, gel, or foam applied directly to the teeth.

The three most common fluoride sources are sodium fluoride, sodium monofluorophosphate, and stannous fluoride. Fluoride is actually found as a compound in rocks and soil everywhere, so as waterways run over rocks, soluble fluoride ions are naturally in the water.

This particular type of fluoride rose to fame in the 1950s and now you’ll find it in hundreds of over-the-counter dental products. Among the most commonly used types of fluoride, stannous fluoride is unique. In addition to being effective at fighting cavities and gingivitis, it is antimicrobial and reduces hypersensitivity.

Stannous Fluoride vs Sodium Fluoride: What’s the Difference?

toothbrush head with toothpaste

Sodium fluoride is a white powder that is often used in toothpastes and mouthwashes. Unlike stannous fluoride, sodium fluoride is also used in community-wide drinking water supplies to improve dental health. Although sodium fluoride doesn’t have the same antimicrobial and anti-sensitivity properties that stannous fluoride does, it’s still an important tool in modern dental care.

There is controversy around the use of sodium fluoride, especially when it comes to young children because they’re more prone to swallow toothpaste accidentally. There is growing concern that because there’s sodium fluoride in our drinking water and mouthwash and toothpaste, we might be getting an unhealthy amount of it.

However, stannous fluoride is not met with as much controversy as sodium fluoride. In part, this is due to its additional benefits of preventing gum disease by warding off bacteria and preventing plaque build-up.

Oral Health Benefits of Stannous Fluoride

Stannous fluoride has several oral benefits. From staving off periodontitis to strengthening enamel, fluoride is a dentist’s friend.

Anti-Cavity Properties

According to the Center for Disease Control, 20% of children aged 5 to 11 have at least one untreated decaying tooth or cavity. If left untreated, cavities can lead to dangerous infections and affect overall health.

Stannous fluoride stands out among the three types of fluoride for its unique ability to kill bacteria in the mouth that would otherwise produce acid and contribute to cavity growth. A 2004 study showed a radical difference in cavities among children using stannous fluoride versus two different concentrates of sodium fluoride.

Gingivitis Treatment

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that can cause bleeding and lead to infection. Since there aren’t many warning signs for gingivitis, at-home preventative care and visiting the dentist are crucial steps to reduce your risk.

Studies have shown stannous fluoride to be better at combating gingivitis and subsequent bleeding than sodium fluoride. Generally, toothpastes with stannous fluoride are better at reducing plaque build-up and gingivitis than conventional productions.

Reduce Plaque Build-Up

The worst part of going to the dentist is definitely having each tooth rigorously scrubbed with a metal tool. As uncomfortable as it is, the removal of plaque is pretty important since plaque can cause gingivitis and lead to further health issues down the road.

Stannous fluoride toothpaste is proven to show a significant difference in plaque accumulation over time. In fact, it’s better at fighting plaque than sodium fluoride. Multiple studies have shown that both throughout the day and overnight, products containing stannous fluoride are more effective at inhibiting plaque growth than sodium fluoride.

Strengthen Tooth Enamel

Enamel is what protects teeth from damage and it’s actually the hardest part of your body. If your enamel is reduced due to vomiting, teeth grinding, or excess sugars, your teeth are less protected. This can lead to issues with sensitivity, which affects your ability to enjoy hot or cold foods.

To combat a reduction in tooth enamel, brushing gently with fluoride toothpaste is recommended by many dental professionals. Stannous fluoride has the ability to remineralize tooth enamel, which can help fight any new acids your teeth are exposed to throughout normal daily activities, like eating.

Does Stannous Fluoride Stain Your Teeth?

One con to stannous fluoride is that it can cause staining, especially in high doses used in dental offices. However, a 2019 study showed that a formula of a specific Colgate toothpaste was able to significantly reduce extrinsic stains. Another 2019 study showed low levels of staining after test subjects used products with stannous fluoride twice daily for four weeks.

In terms of its potential toxicity, stannous fluoride is not a known carcinogen, but a growing number of studies have investigated the link between fluoridated drinking water and osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer.

Additionally, ingesting excess fluoride is dangerous and can cause issues in the gastrointestinal tract, the nervous system, and even cause fetal defects in pregnant women. That’s why labels on toothpastes containing fluoride advise calling poison control if you believe your child has ingested toothpaste.

So, Should You Use Dental Products with Stannous Fluoride?

Stannous fluoride covers more bases than sodium fluoride, so if you’re looking for a product with overall benefits to oral health, look for a stannous fluoride formula. Luckily, there aren’t many stannous fluoride toothpaste side effects. But if you’re wary of staining, you can choose sodium fluoride. Just take note of the associated risks especially if you have children or are pregnant.

Although a recent review of literature reinforced the benefits stannous fluoride provides like preventing plaque build-up and gingivitis, you may choose to opt-out of fluoride in your dental care products. If that’s the case, check out a fluoride-free option, like the Public Goods toothpaste. Consider pairing it with a bamboo toothbrush, which has soft bristles. Add on dental floss, and your dentist will surely be impressed during your next visit.

As always, check with your dentist to learn what types of fluoride they use in their office and what you can do at home to protect your teeth before making any decisions on your oral care. In taking care of your body, it’s always important to know the ingredients you use and why you’re using them.

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