What is fluoride? Why do we need it?
Fluoride is a compound consisting of fluorine and one or more other elements.
It occurs naturally in the body as calcium fluoride and is found primarily
in the bones and teeth.
Why do we need it?
Small amounts of fluoride help reduce tooth decay. Studies have shown
that fluoridated water supplies can reduce dental caries in children by
50 to 60%. Fluoride is also involved in the maintenance of bone structure.
How much fluoride should I take?
There is currently no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for fluoride.
However, the National Academy of Sciences has deemed the following amounts
to be safe and adequate in a normal diet:
- Adult men: between 1.5-4.0 milligrams/day
- Adult women: between 1.5-4.0 milligrams/day
- Children aged 7-10: between 1.5-2.5 milligrams/day
- Infants: between 0.1-1.5 milligrams/day
- Pregnant/lactating women: 3.0 milligrams/day
What are some good sources of fluoride?
The best source of fluoride is fluoridated water, which is available
in about half of all households in the United States. Foods prepared with
fluoridated water will also contain fluoride. Natural fluoride is present
in the ocean as sodium fluoride, so most seafood contains some form of
fluoride. Tea and gelatin are also good sources.
What can happen if I don't get enough fluoride?
The most recognizable symptom of fluoride deficiency is an increased
incidence of tooth decay, especially in children. Unstable bones and teeth
are other signs of a lack of fluoride.
What can happen if I take too much?
Large quantities of fluoride intake can result in dental fluorosis, a
condition in which tooth enamel becomes dull and unglazed with some spotting.
At very high concentrations, dark stains may appear on the teeth. Although
unsightly, these teeth rarely have any dental caries. Fluoride intake
of 20 to 80 milligrams per day over a period of many years can cause skeletal
fluorosis, which causes the bones to be chalky and brittle.
- Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed. Washington,
D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989.
- Murray M. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements.
Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996.
- Stannard, et al. Fluoride levels and fluoride contamination
of fruit juices. Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry 1991;16(1).
- Susheela AK, Jethanandani P. Serum haptoglobin and
C-reactive protein in human skeletal fluorosis. Clin Biochem
- Dasarathy S, Das TK, Gupta IP, Susheela AK, Tandon
RK. Gastroduodenal manifestations in patients with skeletal fluorosis.
J Gastroenterol Jun 1996;31(3):333-7.