He was also interested in freedom of choice whether the store in question offered any non fluoridated alternatives, particularly for children. Finally, he wanted to see what types of warnings there were concerning accidental overdose, particularly in children.
His findings make a chilling commentary on the fact that toothpaste manufacturers, like most makers of toiletries, are basically allowed to provide the flimsiest of detail about their products.
Boots offered two fluoride free toothpastes its own brand and Kingfisher's non fluoride. The rest of the toothpastes offered contained fluoride, and no children's toothpastes were free of the stuff. Boots also sells mouthwashes which contain fluoride, but offer no indication of percentages, and dental floss which has been soaked in fluoride to the maximum level permitted of 1500 parts per million.
At Boots, I was also able to purchase orange flavoured fluoride tablets (Endekay Fluotabs, for those ages four and over) over the counter without prescription and with no verbal warnings given as to their usage. This product contains 200 tablets of 2.2 mg sodium fluoride a level which certainly can cause fluoride intoxication, leading to dental fluorosis or worse in children.
I was particularly amazed to find at Boots a Denture Toothpaste specifically designed to clean dentures which, for some reason, contained 0.24 per cent sodium fluoride. Another inexplicable touch was the addition of the artificial sweetener saccharine. As it also contains bromochlorophene, a disinfectant, it is obviously not designed to be used like a normal toothpaste.
Boots also sells Theramed 2 in 1, a toothpaste and mouthwash combination. This product gives no indication of the amount of sodium fluoride it contains. It also doesn't warn against unsupervised brushing for children or provide an advisory that anyone taking fluoride supplements consult their dentist as some of the other products do.
There was a very limited choice of non fluoride toothpastes available only Sensodyne Sensitive tooth formula with strontium chloride (a heavy metal used to alleviate the pain of age related receding gums) and Euthymol, which contains antiseptics with a strong taste that children are not likely to find pleasant. There were no fluoride free children's toothpastes on offer. Safeway also sells mouthwashes, again containing unspecified amounts of sodium fluoride.
Safeway's own brand, Savers toothpaste, contains a whopping 0.85 per cent sodium monofluorophosphate, which they haven't translated into parts per million on the packaging. (Our own calculation worked this out to be around 1118 ppm of fluoride or 140 mg in a 125-ml tube.) It makes a number of therapeutic claims "helps prevent tooth decay and strengthens tooth enamel" but does not display a product licence (PL) number to substantiate them.
Another Safeway's own brand toothpaste is Oracle for Kids Strawberry Flavour Gel, with the word 'Kids' in giant letters on the tube. This strawberry flavoured gel contains 0.4 per cent sodium monofluorophosphate (525 ppm or 39 mg in a 75-ml tube). The worry of a product with such a 'fun taste' as strawberry is that, although it might "encourage kids to clean their teeth", as the manufacturer says, it may also encourage them to swallow it.
Printed on the packaging was the following: "The performance claims made on Oracle for Kids Strawberry Flavour Gel are approved by the British Dental Health Foundation". The British Dental Health Foundation, for the uninitiated, is a self appointed body consisting, in the main, of dental manufacturers plus some dentists.