Fluoride – Good or Harmful?

Fluoride is a mineral found in water, plants, rocks, the soil, and air. In essence, it’s all around us and ever-present. It’s in our bones and teeth as well. 

Dentists use fluoride through toothpaste and mouthwashes to strengthen our teeth because it:

  1. Rebuilds tooth enamel
  2. Reverses tooth decay (in earlier stages)
  3. Protects teeth from harmful bacteria

In many countries, including the United States, they also add it to the water supply to prevent tooth decay as a public health measure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that drinking fluoridated water lowers tooth decay by about 25% in children and adults. [1]

Aside from teeth protection, fluoride serves other purposes as well. It’s used in medical scans, in pesticides, for the creation of aluminum and Teflon products, as well as a cleaning agent.

Overall, fluoride has many purposes, it can be beneficial to our health, and is widely available. [2]

However, more significant amounts of fluoride lead to several problems which I’ll discuss in this article.

Dental Fluorosis 

Dental Fluorosis is a problem caused by more substantial intake of fluoride, that can be identified by white or brown patches on the teeth of children that were exposed to high amounts of fluoride before the development of permanent teeth. [3] Fluorosis is very common and is found in 41% of adolescents in the US.

Dental Fluorosis is a problem caused by more substantial intake of fluoride, that can be identified by white or brown patches on the teeth of children that were exposed to high amounts of fluoride before the development of permanent teeth. [3] Fluorosis is very common and is found in 41% of the adolescents in the US even if their teeth have no stains on them. The reason for this is that fluorosis after the development of permanent teeth goes unmarked.

In preventing fluorosis, it’s highly advisable to make sure that your children:

  1. Are not drinking tap water regularly, and are drinking water that has gone through a filtration system that removes fluoride from the water, or are drinking bottled water.
  2. Are not using too much toothpaste
  3. Are not swallowing toothpaste
  4. Are not using mouthwash
  5. Are using fluoride-free dental products instead such as toothpaste from Weleda

Skeletal Fluorosis

As the name suggests, it’s in many ways similar to dental fluorosis, except for the fact that it affects bones and not the teeth. The results of skeletal fluorosis are damaged bones and joints.

Skeletal fluorosis occurs from long-term exposure to more significant amounts of fluoride, usually from drinking tap water. The cases typically happen in less developed countries where there are already higher amounts of fluoride found naturally, which reach the water supply that already has fluoride in it. In the United States, on the other hand, there is a very low prevalence of this disease. [4]

Thyroid Problems

Exposure to fluoride through tap water was found to increase thyroid stimulating hormone providing evidence of a suppressed thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), with symptoms ranging from fatigue, disrupted heart rhythm, and altered metabolism. The effects of fluoride on the thyroid gland were especially prominent in people with low iodine levels since iodine helps remove fluoride from the body. [5][6]

Too much fluoride has also been found to cause adverse effects on the parathyroid gland which then produces an excess of parathyroid hormones. [7]

These problems affect the bones as they deplete calcium from their structure, which subsequently results in brittle bones.

Possibility for Lower Cognitive Abilities and ADHD

In 2017, a study claimed that pregnant women exposed to higher amounts of fluoride gave birth to children with slightly lower IQs and cognitive abilities. The research was conducted on almost 300 pregnant women and subsequently followed the development of children over several years. [8] Another study examined the relationship between exposure to fluoridated water and the prevalence of ADHD among children and adolescents in the US and found that artificial water fluoridation positively predicted the prevalence of ADHD 10 – 20 years later. [9]

The Bottom Line

Tap water fluoridation does not provide any control of the level of fluoride exposure that children and adults receive. Furthermore, scientists have shown that the benefit to teeth that comes from fluoride can come from topical fluoride application or, in other words, using toothpaste with fluoride. Furthermore, adding fluoride to public water systems is not really a democratic approach to public health.

If you want more information on whether your tap water is fluoridated, the CDC has a tool available which provides information on which locations use fluoride in the water supply and how much. If you live in a place with high levels of fluoride in the water supply, aim to use fluoride-free dental products, especially for your children, who are the ones most affected by fluoride-induced health problems.

You may also wish to use a water filter to filter out contaminants. The one I recommend is the handy Epic Pure Water Filter Pitcher which removes up to 99.99% of all contaminants including fluoride. It is 100% recyclable and 100% BPA-free and very simple to use.

The best advice for tooth health is to eat foods that our teeth were meant to consume, like nuts, whole foods, fruits and vegetables. When soft foods or sugar rich foods and beverages are consumed, teeth will become decayed. When healthy food options are consumed and there are no lacking nutrient deficiencies in the diet, the teeth of the person will be healthy and strong.

Feel free to comment below and let me know what you liked best about this article.

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Thank You, 🙂

Galit Goldfarb

References:

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/index.html

[2] Fluoride: A review of use and effects on health. Domen Kanduti, Petra Sterbenk, and Barbara Artnik. Published online 2016 Mar 25. doi:  [10.5455/msm.2016.28.133-137]

[3] Chronic Fluoride Toxicity: Dental Fluorosis. Pamela DenBesten and Wu Li. Published online 2011 Jun 23. doi: [10.1159/000327028]

[4] Recovery from skeletal fluorosis (an enigmatic, American case). Kurland ES1, Schulman RC, Zerwekh JE, Reinus WR, Dempster DW, Whyte MP. 2007 Jan;22(1):163-70.

[5] Peckham S, Lowery D, Spencer S Are fluoride levels in drinking water associated with hypothyroidism prevalence in England? A large observational study of GP practice data and fluoride levels in drinking water J Epidemiol Community Health 2015;69:619-624.

[6] Zohreh Kheradpisheh, Masoud Mirzaei, Amir Hossein Mahvi, Mehdi Mokhtari, Reyhane Azizi, Hossein Fallahzadeh & Mohammad Hassan Ehrampoush. Impact of Drinking Water Fluoride on Human Thyroid Hormones: A Case- Control Study. Scientific Reportsvolume 8, Article number: 2674 (2018)

[7] Impact of Drinking Water Fluoride on Human Thyroid Hormones: A Case-Control Study. Zohreh Kheradpisheh, Masoud Mirzaei, Amir Hossein Mahvi, Mehdi Mokhtari, Reyhane Azizi, Hossein Fallahzadeh, and Mohammad Hassan Ehrampoush. Published online 2018 Feb 8. doi: [10.1038/s41598-018-20696-4]

[8] Prenatal Fluoride Exposure and Cognitive Outcomes in Children at 4 and 6–12 Years of Age in Mexico. Morteza Bashash, Deena Thomas, Howard Hu, E. Angeles Martinez-Mier, Brisa N. Sanchez, Niladri Basu, Karen E. Peterson, Adrienne S. Ettinger, Robert Wright, Zhenzhen Zhang, Yun Liu, Lourdes Schnaas, Adriana Mercado-García, Martha María Téllez-Rojo, and Mauricio Hernández-Avila. Published:19 September 2017. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP655

[9] Ashley J Mali and Christine Till. Exposure to fluoridated water and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder prevalence among children and adolescents in the United States: an ecological association. Environmental Health 201514:17