Fluoride is an element that is naturally-occurring and was once considered a micronutrient for the body. However, with new facts coming to light, it has been found that fluoride may actually do more harm than good in the body.
Fluoride in Water
During the 1940s, it was normal occurrence for fluoride to be added to public drinking water in order to prevent tooth decay. However, studies have shown that the fluoride in water causes dental fluorosis in about 10% of the population. This is a condition where there is discoloration of the teeth’s surface. A more disturbing possibility is the link between fluoride and an increased risk of bone fluorosis and bone cancer. Bone fluorosis is caused by fluoride bonding to the calcium in bones and then being flushed from the system. Currently, since fluoride is already present in a number of beverages, as well as foods, adding fluoride to water is not recommended.
Benefits of Fluoride
In very minimal amounts, fluoride has an important role in bone mineralization. Fluoride helps prevent cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride’s role in having healthy gums and teeth was first acknowledged in the 1930s. Fluoride fights tooth decay in two different ways. First, fluoride that is found in saliva reacts with phosphate and calcium in the teeth. This reaction repairs the damage to the surface of the teeth. The resulting surface is then stronger as compared to the original tooth surface.
Another way that fluoride helps tooth decay is by interfering with the metabolic process of bacteria that are found inside the mouth. This results in the bacteria producing less acid that causes tooth decay.
Sources of Fluoride
Flouride is naturally found in seawater, as well as in drinking water in some areas. It is also present in minute amounts in almost all animals, plants and soil.
Of all sources mentioned, a relatively abundant source of fluoride is natural water. Seafood and tea also have a relatively larger content of fluoride. For non-food sources, toothpaste is a significant source of fluoride.
How Fluoride Works, Overdose and Toxicity
Fluoride that is present in water dissolves to become an ion that is negatively-charged. Once inside the body, this ion becomes absorbed into the bloodstream. This ion from the bloodstream then becomes bonded with calcium in the teeth and bones.
An adult body contains approximately 2.5 grams of fluoride and almost all of this is found in the teeth and bones. Too much fluoride in the body is harmful because it can cause a number of medical conditions, the least of which is dental fluorosis (especially in kids).
Because there is a wide diversity in fluoride-containing compounds, the toxicity of fluoride cannot be generalized. Fluoride salts that are soluble, like sodium fluoride, are considered as mildly toxic and can lead to acute poisoning. The lethal dose for this compound is between 5-10 grams. Another form of fluoride, hydrogen fluoride, is more dangerous as it can result to death by inhalation or exposure.