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Toothpaste From the Stars

Next time you look up at the stars, you can be reminded of your clean teeth.

Wait, what? Yep — the fluorine that is found in products such as toothpaste was likely formed billions of years ago in now dead stars of the same type as our sun, according to astronomers at Lund University in Sweden, together with colleagues from Ireland and the United States.

In addition to toothpaste, fluorine can be found in chewing gum but the origins of the chemical element have been somewhat of a mystery. The most recent findings support the theory that fluorine is formed in stars similar to the sun but heavier, towards the end of their existence. The sun and the planets in our solar system have then been formed out of material from these dead stars.

"So, the fluorine in our toothpaste originates from the sun's dead ancestors", said Nils Ryde, a reader in astronomy at Lund University.

By analyzing the light emitted by a star, it’s possible to calculate how much of different elements it contains. Different chemical elements are formed at high pressure and temperature inside a star.

Fluorine is formed towards the end of the star's life, when it has expanded to become what is known as a red giant. The fluorine then moves to the outer parts of the star.
After that, the star casts off the outer parts and forms a planetary nebula. The fluorine that is thrown out in this process mixes with the gas that surrounds the stars, known as the interstellar medium.

New stars and planets are then formed from the interstellar medium. When the new stars die, the interstellar medium is enriched once again.

The American Dental Association recommends consumers look for the ADA Seal when selecting a toothpaste. The Seal helps you make sure you are choosing the best toothpaste for your dental needs.

It's also your assurance that the toothpaste has met the ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness and that it does what it says. Visit, click on A-Z topics and search for "toothpaste" to learn more.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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