Most of us when we think of fluoride, we tend to think of toothpaste. We associate the fluoride that’s added to our toothpaste, mouth rinses, and water supply as a strong disruptor against plaque bacteria helping to prevent tooth decay.
What you may not realise is that fluoride (from the element fluorine) is a naturally occurring mineral found in the earth’s crust. It is a naturally abundant inorganic mineral found in soil, plants, and bodies of water. It is found in our freshwater systems and oceans along with animals and plants we eat such as spinach, grapes, and pure chocolate.
Once fluoride is absorbed into our body it is stored in our bones and teeth, this process is called remineralization (a process where lost calcium and phosphorous are replenished), in fact, approximately 99% of fluoride found in the body is in our teeth and bones!1
Fluoride has long been known for its ability to strengthen teeth and maintain dental health, and for the past 50 to 60 years we have seen the addition of fluoride to our toothpaste, mouth rinses, and our water supply. Have you ever stopped to consider all of these additional sources of “added” fluoride, and are there any risks associated?
Perhaps here-in lies another example of weighing up the health benefits of utilizing something; be that a type of food, vitamin, or mineral, when it’s in its “nature-made” state, versus too much of something that’s been added to our food supply or daily routine.
Let’s find out…
A Short History on Fluoride.
Fluoride first made its appearance onto the health scene by the hand of an American dentist named Frederick McKay in the year 1909. McKay had observed that in the year of 1909 dental health was quickly becoming a prevalent health issue on a large scale. He believed that fluoride was the answer to this issue, and he revealed his research and findings to his fellow dentists.
Not long after dentists adopted fluoride as their prophetical child for improving dental health. They added it to their products like toothpaste, flosses, mouthwashes, and it was eventually added to municipal water supplies in 1945 in the US. It’s fair to say that fluoride became quite a hit with the public and dentistry rose to popularity for the means of preventative medicine.2
Research studies have shown that fluoride:4
- Reduces the formation of cavities in both baby and adult teeth
- Reduces plaque build-up on teeth
- Reduces swelling and bleeding of gums
- May increase bone strength
These studies outline that built-up plaque produces acids that demineralize the teeth which can then lead to decay and cavities. It is suggested that fluoride acts to remineralize the teeth and produce a thicker layer of enamel to prevent further damage. However, more recent studies question the benefits of fluoride all together suggesting that while fluoride may have some health benefits, it certainly does not come without risk.
Potential health risks from fluoride.
Fluoride if taken in a small dosage is considered harmless. Considering it is found naturally in some of our foods and as we’ve already discussed – it is added to public drinking water, toothpaste, and dental products, it is fair to say that most Westerners are exposed to an ample amount of fluoride on a daily basis.
While it is quite rare for acute toxicity to occur from fluoride, if a person is exposed to a moderate amount for a prolonged period, chronic toxicity can occur. Many people do not realise that fluoride in a high enough dose, can in fact be highly toxic. ‘In terms of acute toxicity: fluoride is more toxic than lead but slightly less toxic than arsenic. This is why fluoride has long been used in rodenticides and pesticides to kill pests like rats and insects.’ 3 Chronic toxicity from fluoride is rapidly becoming a concerning topic and prevalent health issue globally.
Recent studies have outlined the potential health risks that fluoride can bestow.
- Dental fluorosis: Discolouration of teeth especially in children with developing teeth.
- Skeletal fluorosis: Bones and joints become hardened and less elastic causing pain and increasing the chance of fractures.
- Hyperparathyroidism: Overstimulation of the parathyroid gland and excessive secretion of the parathyroid hormone causing calcium levels to rise in the blood while calcium levels in the bones deplete. Making bones weaker and more susceptible to fractures.
- Neurological problems: Studies have shown that fluoride exposure before birth may aﬀect the child’s IQ and cognitive functions. Recent research may have found a link between fluoride exposure and ADHD in children.
- Other potential risks: Acne, skin problems, high blood pressure, heart failure, reproductive issues, early onset of puberty, and bone cancer.
Not only does it seem that fluoride may play a role in these potential health risks, but it also sparks an ethical debate.
*”Why should my drinking water be polluted with fluoride when my dental health is perfectly fine?”
This is a common question from a large demographic of people that believe fluoridation of public drinking water is a restriction on the freedom of choice. Another question often asked is,
Particularly when we can attain fluoride from nature made sources. This is a very valid point but one might argue that for areas with low socioeconomic statuses people can’t afford to buy fluoride supplements or care for their teeth adequately enough and this is an ongoing debate.
However, with more people becoming conscious of how to keep their teeth healthy there is surely less need for this excessive fluoridation in the modern world. If we focused more on safer preventative strategies for dental health care through education, there would be less need for fluoridation.
It’s important, yes to teach our children an appropriate technique to brush their teeth, their gums and highlight the benefits of flossing from a young age. Where we seem to be failing however is with educating adults and children alike about the significant role that “diet” has not only in our overall health but also with our dental health.
Sugary foods and drinks feed the bacteria that live on our teeth and increase the risk of cavities, this includes even those sugars in our morning coffee! Most Westerners consume an incredible amount of sugar each and every day. Sugar however is not the only culprit here when we are discussing the strength of our teeth. Acidic drinks such as tea, coffee, and juices erode the enamel from teeth increasing cavity risk. We recommend that you have a glass of water and rinse your mouth after the consumption of something acidic to lower this risk.6
In this blog, we have briefly discussed the history and effects of fluoride we will dive deeper with two other blogs in this series. Stay with us as we explore this topic further because it would seem that even if fluoride does possess some health benefits, it is likely that we are still putting our health at risk through chronic toxicity from fluoride.
As most of you are no doubt aware, our health is always reliant on keeping our environment in balance. When we tip the scales by having too much or too little of something, we ultimately tax our health and well-being.
In our next blog Fluoride – let’s dive deeper, we will look further at the health effects of fluoride.
the contents of public drinking water, how to limit fluoride exposure, and how to detox from it.
Yours in health,
Dr. Jennifer Barham-Floreani,
Bach Chiropractic, Bach. App Clinical Science
Research Assistant & Student
Barcelona College of Chiropractic
1. Turney J. 2. What happens to fluoride in your body? [Internet]. Ec.europa.eu. 2020 [cited 17 August 2020]. Available from: https://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/opinions_layman/fluoridation/en/l-3/2.htm
2. Tabak L. The story off fluoridation [Internet]. Nidcr.nih.gov. 2020 [cited 17 August 2020]. Available from: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/fluoride/the-story-of-fluoridation
3. Connett P. Fluoride Action Network | Health Effects [Internet]. Fluoridealert.org. 2020 [cited 17 August 2020]. Available from: http://fluoridealert.org/issues/health/
4. Fluoride: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning [Internet]. Webmd.com. 2020 [cited 17 August 2020]. Available from: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1068/fluoride
5. Brazier Y. Fluoride: Risks, uses, and side effects [Internet]. Medicalnewstoday.com. 2018 [cited 17 August 2020]. Available from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/154164#risks
6. Nowinski A. 5 Amazingly Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Cavities | University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) College of Dentistry [Internet]. Dentistry.uic.edu. 2017 [cited 17 August 2020]. Available from: https://dentistry.uic.edu/patients/cavity-prevention-tips