There are several myths and conspiracy theories about fluoride, and many people worry about if it is beneficial, bad, or even safe. Do the advantages of fluoride exceed any potential health risks?
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral found in various substrates such as soil, water, and diverse foods. Fluoride is used in dentistry to strengthen enamel, which is the outer layer of teeth.
What are the applications of fluoride?
Fluoride reduces the incidence of tooth decay and slows or reverses the progression of existing early cavities.
What is fluoride’s mechanism of action?
The antibacterial action of fluoride is due to acidification of the bacterial cytoplasm through the formation of hydrogen ions from hydrogen fluoride and the disruption of bacterial metabolism by inhibiting vital bacterial enzymes. Also, the use of fluoride lowers the pH.
What are the benefits of fluoride?
Among the benefits of fluoride are:
- remineralizes weakened tooth enamel
- slows down the loss of minerals from tooth enamel
- reverses early signs of tooth decay
- prevents the growth of harmful oral bacteria
What are fluoride sources?
Dietary intake of fluoride
Small quantities of fluoride are ingested through a variety of foods. According to Kanduti et al, fluoride may be found in meats, seafood, and grains. It’s also in canned anchovies, canned fruits, ground chicken meat products, chocolate milk, and various infant food supplements.
There are several fluoride toothpastes on the market, each with a varying amount of fluoride. The quantity of fluoride in the toothpaste is measured in parts per million and may be found on the tube’s side (ppm).
Fluoride varnishes (VF) are fluoride treatments administered by a dentist based on the patient’s risk of cavities. This varnish adheres to tooth surfaces for an extended period, allowing fluoride to be released efficiently and effectively.
Community water fluoridation
Fluoride is a naturally occurring element in freshwater. Its concentration varies depending on geographic location and source, ranging from 0.01 ppm to 100 ppm.
Salt fluorination comprises adding a mixture of potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride to household or table salt to achieve a concentration of 250 ~ 300 mg fluoride/kg salt.
Are there any potential side effects from fluoride?
When fluoride is ingested in excessive amounts, it might produce adverse effects. Among the side effects we find:
Fluorosis develops as a result of high levels of fluoride in the enamel before the tooth erupts. Elevated fluoride levels can cause enamel defects, such as white spots or striations, as well as rough and pitted surfaces.
Read Also: What to Do If You Have a Toothache at Home
Skeletal fluorosis is similar to dental fluorosis in that it affects the bones rather than the teeth. Joint pain and stiffness are common early signs. It can change the bone structure and induce ligament calcification over time.
The presence of excess fluoride within the bone matrix causes an increase in bone mass and density.
Acute toxicity can occur after ingesting one or more doses of fluoride over a short period, which then leads to intoxication. The likely toxic dose is 5 mg/kg of body mass.
The first signs and symptoms are nausea, abdominal pain, bloody vomiting, and diarrhea. Paleness, weakness, shallow breathing, weak heart sounds, clammy and cold skin are all symptoms of fluoride poisoning. It can even result in death in extreme situations.
What to do when there is fluoride poisoning?
In cases of poisoning compounds that contain calcium can be used since they form insoluble complexes that decrease the absorption of fluoride. For instance, milk has a proven role in reducing the absorption of fluoride
The prognostic depends on how much fluoride has been ingested and how quickly treatment is received. The faster a person gets medical help, the better the chances of recovery.
So is fluoride good or bad?
Research shows that the advantages outweigh the risks as long as fluoride levels do not exceed the recommended limits. Monitoring your fluoride intake from all sources, not just water and toothpaste, is the key to success.
Aoun, A., Darwiche, F., Al Hayek, S., & Doumit, J. (2018). The Fluoride Debate: The Pros and Cons of Fluoridation. Preventive nutrition and food science, 23(3), 171–180. https://www.dbpia.co.kr/journal/articleDetail?nodeId=NODE07538390
Baik, A., Alamoudi, N., El-Housseiny, A., & Altuwirqi, A. (2021). Fluoride Varnishes for Preventing Occlusal Dental Caries: A Review. Dentistry journal, 9(6), 64. https://www.mdpi.com/2304-6767/9/6/64
Kanduti, D., Sterbenk, P., & Artnik, B. (2016). FLUORIDE: A REVIEW OF USE AND EFFECTS ON HEALTH. Materia socio-medica, 28(2), 133–137. https://www.bibliomed.org/mnsfulltext/16/16-1458908859.pdf?1627492761
O’Mullane, D. M., Baez, R. J., Jones, S., Lennon, M. A., Petersen, P. E., Rugg-Gunn, A. J., Whelton, H., & Whitford, G. M. (2016). Fluoride and Oral Health. Community dental health, 33(2), 69–99.