Fluorides are among the important mineral constituents of the human body. It is needed in traces by the body; and hence, it is known as a trace mineral. Almost all of the body fluoride is found in the bones and teeth (nearly 99%) in the form of calcium fluoride. In teeth, fluoride is a key component that helps prevent dental cavities and tooth decay. Also, bones are vital to protect our internal organs; they also provide shape and structure to our body and anchor muscles. Fluorides are used to help treat conditions that cause bone loss such as in women after menopause. However, significant reports of detrimental health effects caused by fluoride overexposure are also reported by several major scientific and research organizations globally.
Most water sources contain some amounts of dissolved fluorides in them. Besides, when the role of fluoride in fighting dental problems was established, fluoridation of water supplies became a regular practice in many countries i.e., agents of fluorine are routinely added to drinking water. The American Dental Association (ADA), on the role of fluoride in water being good for communities, has this to say:
“For 70 years, the best available scientific evidence consistently indicates that community water fluoridation is safe and effective. It has been endorsed by numerous U.S. Surgeons General, and more than 100 health organizations recognize the health benefits of water fluoridation for preventing dental decay, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, the American Dental Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”
(Source: 5 Reasons Why Fluoride in Water is Good for Communities; American Dental Association (ADA), 2019)
Besides, fluoridated drinking water, fluoride compounds (mostly sodium fluoride) are also a steady component of dental products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes. Children are known to get exposed to higher than normal concentrations of the fluorine compound and experience some fluoride side effects. During teeth formation, such an excessive exposure may cause the mottling of teeth, resulting in a condition called dental fluorosis. The removal of fluoride from the body is through urinary excretion. However, a controlled clinical study in young children, conducted in 1994 and published in the Pediatric Research journal, found that only about 20% of the absorbed fluoride is excreted by them, whereas the rate of excretion was about 50% in adults.
According to the US National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of fluoride for adolescents and adults is 3-4 milligrams per day and about 0.7-2 milligrams per day for children over a year old. Breast milk contains significantly lower levels of fluoride; however, the fluoride requirement in infants (up to 6-months old) is of a very low order, at about 0.01 milligrams per day.
Foods that contain fluorides in high levels include the following:
- Dill herb
- Unsweetened grape juice
- Vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes, asparagus, and carrots
- Orange, grapefruit, and apple juice
- Beans and peas
- Seedless raisins
- White rice
Ingestion of fluoride compounds may occur in the form of dental products, processed foods, beverages (including tea; tea leaves contain dissolved fluorides), pharmaceutical products, from Teflon pans (when used to boil water or cook food), and even through certain pesticides. Both deficient consumption and excess consumption of fluoride products can result in health issues, especially in children. Thus, it is always recommended to take the advice of a suitable healthcare professional before bringing about any alteration to your or your child’s regular food habits.