Definition Fluoride is a trace mineral. It is present in the body in a very small amount. The average body contains about two and a half grams of fluoride. Most fluoride is found in the bones and teeth.
What food source is the nutrient found in? Fluoridated water is the best source of fluoride. The fluoride content of food depends upon the fluoride content of the soil in which the food was grown. Fish with edible bones, such as canned salmon, also provides some dietary fluoride. Toothpastes are another common source of fluoride.
How does the nutrient affect the body? Fluoride helps harden the tooth enamel. This protects teeth from decay. Its effects are greatest during the early years of life when teeth are still forming. People get more cavities if the water they drink is not fluoridated and fluoride intake is low. Fluoride may also help to strengthen bones, which may help to prevent osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease. Fluoride works with calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and vitamin D. These are all nutrients important in the formation and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. There is evidence that some elderly patients who live in areas with fluoridated water have improved bone strength and a reduction in the symptoms of osteoporosis or bone thinning. However, use of fluoride in the treatment of osteoporosis is controversial. Fluoride may also help wounds to heal and enhance iron absorption.
Information No specific recommended dietary intake for fluoride has been set. An estimated amount that is safe and adequate is 1.5 to 4 milligrams daily for adults. For children over age 4 and for teens it is 1.5 to 2.5 milligrams. This intake needs to be reduced in areas where the water has been fluoridated.
Some people have concerns about the safety of fluoridated water. Fluoride has been studied for many years. The levels used in fluoridated water pose no harmful effects to health and help to greatly reduce the risk of tooth decay and other periodontal diseases. Communities with fluoridated water do not have higher rates of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, or liver disease.
Too much fluoride can cause mottled teeth. The teeth have brownish stains. The teeth are healthy, but they are stained. Mottling usually occurs in areas where the water naturally contains high levels of fluoride.
Author: Clare Armstrong, MS, RD Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia Last Updated: 1/10/2001 Contributors Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request
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