Experts do agree that ingesting too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which can cause white flecks on teeth, or even weak bones and susceptibility to fractures. Fluorosis is a significant health issue for babies and children whose teeth are still developing. On the other hand, some fluoride is important for helping a child develop strong teeth. Experts suggest monitoring the amount of fluoride an infant and small child ingests, since some bottle-fed babies can get fluoride in their formula if it's made with fluoridated water.
For adults, the small amount of fluoride in toothpaste is not enough to cause fluorosis. However, fluoride does build up in the body. Older adults with any chronic diseases might want to consult a doctor about whether or not to use a fluoride supplement or drink fluoridated water. Fluoride is also a natural ingredient in many foods, especially in tea. For most adults, the ADA says the benefits of fluoride toothpaste far outweigh any risks -- for that reason, no fluoride-free toothpastes are ADA approved.
Tom's of Maine Natural Antiplaque plus Whitening Gel Toothpaste, Spearmint (*Est. $3.70/5.5 oz.) earns rave reviews from consumers rating toothpastes at Drugstore.com. Unlike some of the other toothpastes by Tom's of Maine, it contains SLS, which can dry and irritate the mouth. However, we found no complaints about this toothpaste. The more expensive Nature's Gate Herbal Crème de Anise Natural (*Est. $5.20/6 oz.) also contains SLS but gets high ratings at Drugstore.com. Users say they love the licorice flavor.
XyliWhite (*Est. $3.85/6.4 oz.) is less expensive, doesn't contain SLS and uses hydrated silica instead of calcium carbonate for better stain removal. XyliWhite is 25 percent xylitol, and also includes baking soda. Tea tree oil is included for its fungicidal and antibacteriological properties, and papain is used as a whitener. The RDA isn't specified.
Note that just because a toothpaste ingredient is "natural" or "herbal" does not mean that no one is sensitive or even allergic to it. (Think of poison ivy, a very natural and organic plant.) Some people say they're allergic, for example, to the seaweed-derived carrageenan which is often used as a thickening and smoothing agent. Health Canada warns that quite a few herbs can also trigger allergies.