Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral in water, soil, and air.1 Water is a primary source of dietary fluoride. Still, it’s also present in tea, seafood containing bones or shells, and supplements.2 Other sources include oral hygiene products like fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash.1
Fluoride and dental health
Fluoride can lead to improved dental health due to a reduction in:
- the number of cavities,
- the need for dental fillings,
- and the incidence of tooth decay.1
When a person consumes foods high in sugars, bacteria in the mouth produce acid.1 This acid damages the surface of teeth, known as enamel. This damaged enamel means weaker teeth.1 The following can be done to help maintain or strengthen the enamel:
- having regular dental and hygiene appointments,
- avoiding sugary foods,
- and brushing and flossing before bed.1
Water naturally contains small amounts of fluoride. However, this isn’t enough for preventive dental measures.1 Health research supports that adding fluoride to the water supply reduces tooth decay.1 This suggests that water fluoridation may be an effective means of improving the dental health of communities.1
Fluoride in the water
With the benefits of water fluoridation research, information on the risks has also emerged.3 In June 2015, a global network of researchers and healthcare professionals, the Cochrane Collaboration, published an analysis of twenty research studies on fluoride in the water.3
Despite the conclusion that water fluoridation can effectively prevent tooth decay in children, the Cochrane Collaboration found the research was flawed.3 For instance, studies didn’t account for the widespread use of fluoridated dental products, which is now a major source of fluoride exposure.3 This point raises the question, is fluoride safe, and what are the risks of high amounts of fluoride?
Is fluoride safe?
High fluoride levels in the body can be dangerous. causing a condition called fluorosis.3 This condition alters the look and function of enamel. Symptoms of fluorosis are small spots that are white in colour, tooth staining, and pitting.2 Very high levels of fluoride may also weaken the bones and lead to toxicity-induced symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, pain, and diarrhea.2
Fluoride-induced toxicity can lead to organ dysfunction, coma, and even death.2 Some research studies have also found a link between high fluoride levels and learning deficits.3 However, these outcomes are linked to fluoride levels higher than what’s in fluoridated water.3
Water fluoridation is one of the top ten significant public health achievements.1 Adding fluoride to water supplies has cost-effectively improved the dental health of communities.1 It’s important to leave things to the professionals to avoid any risks and maximize dental benefits.2,3 To learn more about fluoride and dental health, please consult your healthcare provider.
- Water Fluoridation Basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated October 1, 2021. Accessed November 23, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/fluoridation/basics/index.htm#:~:text=All%20water%20contains%20some%20fluoride,a%20person%20eats%20sugary%20foods.
- Aoun A, Darwiche F, Al Hayek S, Doumit J. The Fluoride Debate: The Pros and Cons of Fluoridation. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2018;23(3):171-180. doi:10.3746/pnf.2018.23.3.171
- Is Fluoridated Drinking Water Safe? Harvard Public Health. Updated in 2016. Accessed November 24, 2022. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/fluoridated-drinking-water