Illustrated by Elliot Salazar.
To understand why someone might create such a thing, we should first explain why fluoride would be included in toothpaste in the first place. Fluoride is actually a mineral found naturally in soil that has been proven to protect against the formation of cavities. It does so by both preventing decay and remineralizing damaged teeth. If you have teeth, you also have a risk for developing cavities. So, adding fluoride to toothpaste and water seemed like a pretty simple and cost-effective solution to a common problem when it was introduced to the United States in 1945. And, indeed, the CDC calls water fluoridation one of the "10 great public health achievements of the 20th century."
But, since then, opposition to fluoride has increased, even leading Oregon voters to completely reject it last year. It's been called "poisonous" and studies of various scientific strengths have linked fluoride to everything from bone cancer and lowered IQ to manipulating immune responses. However, the most important thing to keep in mind here is the dose: Within the accepted limits, fluoride protects teeth; at higher levels, it has the potential to do much worse. And, the right dose varies depending on a person's weight.
The toothpaste in question here, Theodent, includes a patented fluoride alternative (derived from cocoa beans) called Rennou. There haven't been too many studies published that evaluate Rennou's effectiveness, so it's impossible to really discuss it here. But, those studies that do exist reveal Rennou to be a formulation of theobromine, an alkaloid found in chocolate. In one such study, published earlier this year in Clinical Oral Investigations and funded by the makers of Theodent, participants experienced a remarkable increase in dental remineralization after brushing twice daily (for a week) with Theodent. Another study from the same researcher — this one published in Caries Research and performed exclusively in the lab rather than on human participants — shows similarly impressive results for theobromine. While Thedoent's creators hope theobromine will one day replace fluoride in toothpastes, it seems too early to tell if that's a possibility.
Theobromine is perhaps more famous for being the thing that makes chocolate poisonous to pets. So, while it's safe for us, it might not be the most practical option. And, $100 per bottle is an expensive investment in something that doesn't even taste like chocolate. There are already plenty of fluoride-free options with less wallet impact, including a $10 kids' version of Theodent that may slightly undercut the supposed need for the regular, adult-sized price point.