Fluoride is naturally in water, food and soil. It is an added ingredient in many products such as toothpaste, mouthwash, chemicals and bottled water. Public water authorities add fluoride to water due to the fact that studies have shown that adding it in locations where fluoride levels in the water are low can decrease the likelihood of dental decay and problems in the area. Decay and cavities are a common dental health problem and it affects children at a higher rate. Many people worldwide can’t afford regular dental checks and care, so adding fluoride to drinking water can give benefits. However, potential effects of fluoride in drinking water have possible impacts on health, wellness, dental care and neurological wellbeing.
Quick Fluoride Facts
- Fluoride comes from fluorine. Fluorine is a common, natural element.
- Putting fluoride into a water supply decreases the occurrence of tooth decay.
- Fluoride protects teeth from decay by demineralization and remineralization.
- High fluoride levels can result in dental fluorosis or skeletal fluorosis, which can harm bones and joints.
Benefits of Fluoride
The American Dental Association (ADA) reports fluoride in water helps people who use a given area’s treated water supply. Fluoride’s benefits in drinking water include:
- Decreases dental decay by 20-40%
- Cavity protection
- Natural element
- It saves money on dental treatments
- Safe to use
Fluoride exists in water naturally. Including fluoride, says the ADA, is similar to fortifying milk with vitamin D, orange juice with calcium, or grains with B vitamins and folic acid. Using fluoride on children’s teeth protects against or reduces decay.
A study published in 2015 found and reported that when fluoride was added to water:
- Children had 35% less decayed, missing or filled primary teeth.
- There was a 15% rise in children with no decay in their primary teeth.
- The children without any decay in their permanent teeth increased by 14%.
How Fluoride Works?
Fluoride protects against tooth decay by helping growing enamel in kids under the age of 7 years. This makes enamel on teeth more immune to acid. Fluoride makes enamel more resistant to acid wear. It reduces bacterial growth from plaque.
Fluoride works through demineralization and remineralization. When bacteria in the mouth combines with sugars, this forms acid. This acid can erode tooth enamel and damage teeth. Fluoride can safeguard teeth from demineralization that is caused by the acid. If acid has already created some damage to the teeth, fluoride builds up, or remineralizes, in the demineralized locations and begins enhancing the enamel. This is remineralization.
Uses of Fluoride
Fluoride is included in many dental products. Fluoride exists in many water sources, and it may be added to water supplies in public treatment facilities.
Dental products fluoride is used in:
Other products containing fluoride:
- Food and drinks
- Waterproof products
High fluoride exposure can be due to a high concentration level of fluoride in water, from a natural source and/or from fluoridation by a water treatment facility. It’s possible to have a high fluoride level from supplements, mouthwash, toothpaste and some foods.
High levels of fluoride, especially in young childhood while teeth are still growing, falling out and coming in again, can result in dental fluorosis, or signs of wear and discoloring in enamel. This is not harming the health or longevity of teeth. You should not let children seven or younger use mouthwash with fluoride. You should supervise young children while using any toothpaste or mouthwash so it’s not swallowed.
High levels of fluoride can cause the bone disease, skeletal fluorosis. This disease causes damage and pain to bones and joints. Bones become harder and more prone to breaks. Joints and tissues can have less elasticity and mobility. One evaluation says fluoride is a major consumer of calcium and this may cause a high number of the potential health risks or problems.
Sometimes, excess fluoride can damage the parathyroid gland. This can cause hyperparathyroidism, which is the abnormal secretion of parathyroid hormones. This can cause a decrease of calcium in bones and a higher level of calcium in blood. Low calcium levels in bones makes breaks and fractures more likely.
In 2017, a study said direct exposure to fluoride prior to birth can cause poorer cognitive results in the future. The study measured fluoride levels in 299 females while they were pregnant and in their children from 6-12 years old. They checked cognitive capacity at the ages of 4 years and in between 6-12. Higher levels of fluoride were connected with lower ratings on IQ tests.
In 2014, fluoride was documented as a neurotoxin that could be harmful to childhood development, together with 10 other industrial chemicals, such as lead, arsenic, toluene, and methylmercury.
Acute, very high level exposure to fluoride can result in seizures, spasms, nausea, abdominal pain and excessive saliva. Fluoride poisoning is known to occur with high-level contamination of drinking water as in a water supply being affected by a natural disaster, industrial waste, a fire or explosion.
According to the International Organization of Oral Medication and Toxicology (IAOMT), an organization which campaigns against using fluoride, fluoride might likewise contribute to other health problems. Some potential problems are:
- Acne and skin problems
- Cardiovascular problems
- High blood pressure, heart problems and damage
- Reproductive problems
- Thyroid disorders
- Joints and bone problems including osteoarthritis and cancer
- ADHD and other neurological issues
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