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Mineral Nutrient :: Fluoride


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Content Below: What is Fluoride · Benefits · Deficiency Signs · Foods · Supplements · RDA · Toxicity

What is Fluoride ?
Fluoride is a trace mineral, as only small amounts are present in the body (about 2.5 grams in adults), and intake needed is only a few milligrams per day.  Around 95% of it is found in bones and teeth as calcium fluoride with some of the remainder in soft tissues and blood.

Fluoride has long been added to drinking water on evidence that it reduces tooth cavities in children and helps strengthen bones.  However, there is some controversy about this, as conflicting research claims that not only does water fluoridation not help fight tooth decay, but that it can lead to fluoride poisoning and cause liver damage, hip fractures and cancer, mainly due to the lack of control over daily intake level of fluoride in water.

How Fluoride Benefits Health
Fluoride is best known for its role in reducing tooth decay.  In addition, it has recently been found to be important for maintaining strong bones.

:: Fluoride Benefits & Functions
1. decreases incidence of tooth cavities, as fluoride is incorporated into teeth as they form and hardens teeth enamel, making teeth more resistant to acids and cavity-forming bacteria
2. builds and maintains healthy bones
3. strengthens bones and helps prevent bone fractures
4. may lower risk of osteoporosis in menopausal women


Fluoride Deficiency Symptoms and Causes
In places where tap water is fluoridated, small amounts of fluoride (about 1mg/liter) is added to the water.  This is considered by the World Health Organization to be able to protect against dental caries with minimal toxic effects.

In such cases, it is unnecessary to take additional fluoride supplements, as fluoride in water is normally almost all absorbed.

Where water is not fluoridated, some supplementation might be needed.

:: Fluoride Deficiency Symptoms
1. badly formed or weak teeth or increase in tooth cavities
2. brittle or weak bones
3. fractured hips in the elderly


Fluoride Foods
Fluoride is found in certain mouthwashes, and toothpastes and fluoridated water.  It occurs naturally in the sea as sodium fluoride, so most seafood contains fluoride.

Foods high in fluoride are · fluoridated water · seafood.

Other foods containing fluoride include · chicken · canned sardines (with bones) · fish · gelatin · grape juice · tea.


Fluoride Supplements
Taking vitamins and minerals in their correct balance is vital to the proper functioning of all vitamins.  They work synergistically, which means that the effectiveness of any one nutrient requires, or is enhanced, sometimes dramatically, by the presence of certain other nutrients.

For this reason, if you are looking to take supplements for maintenance of optimal health, the recommended approach is to take a multi-vitamin that has the proper balance of all the necessary nutrients your body needs.

For a list of reputable top ranked vitamin and mineral supplements chosen in an independent supplement review, see Best Multivitamin Supplements. Many of these are manufactured to pharmaceutical or nutraceutical GMP compliance, which is the highest multivitamin standard possible.

Keep in mind, however, that while mineral supplements are useful to plug nutritional gaps that are almost inevitable in modern diets, and to ensure we get optimal doses of nutrients, they are no substitute for a good diet. Instead, use them to complement a healthy diet and lifestyle.


Fluoride RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance)
The Food & Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, in their 1997-2001 collaboration between the US and Canada, set the daily Adequate Intake (AI) of Fluoride as follows.

Life Stage | Gender Fluoride Dosage | Day
Infants 0-6 mths 0.01* mg
Infants 7-12 mths 0.5* mg
Children 1-3 yrs 0.7* mg
Children 4-8 yrs 1* mg
Girls 9-13 Yrs 2* mg
Boys 9-13 Yrs 2* mg
Females 14-18 Yrs 3* mg
Males 14-18 Yrs 3* mg
Females 19-50 Yrs 3* mg
Males 19-50 Yrs 4* mg
Females older than 50 Yrs 3* mg
Males older than 50 Yrs 4* mg
Pregnant Women 14-18 Yrs 3* mg
Pregnant Women 19-50 Yrs 3* mg
Lactating Mothers 14-18 Yrs 3* mg
Lactating Mothers 19-50 Yrs 3* mg

These dosages are the minimum required per day to ward off deficiency. In therapeutic use of this nutrient, dosage is increased as necessary for the ailment, keeping in mind Fluoride toxicity levels.


1 µg = 1 mcg = 1 microgram = 1/1,000,000 of a gram
1 mg = 1 milligram = 1/1,000 of a gram

* Indicates AI figures based on Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) figures


Fluoride Overdose Symptoms, Toxicity Level & Side Effects
Excessive fluoride from the diet alone is rare, as foods containing fluoride have only small amounts of it.  Where there is fluoride toxicity, it could be due to accumulation from exposure to multiple sources.  Drinking a lot of water (especially if the fluoride in water is high), coupled with low protein diets, or food grown with fluoride-laden fertilisers, and over-use of tooth paste, can all increase fluoride intake.

It has been noted that some children could ingest more fluoride than the recommended daily allowance, from fortified toothpaste alone.

Excessive fluoride intake (more than 20mg, or more than 0.5mg per kg of body weight for a child weighing less than 40 kg) is toxic.  It neutralizes important enzymes and inhibits calcium absorption, which causes calcium deficiency that can lead to brittle bones and nervousness.

Excess flourine can also cause fluorosis, a condition that adversely affects teeth.  This means that fluoride overdose can have the same impact as fluoride deficiency.  Fluorosis shows up as chalky white patches on teeth.

Even at levels only slightly above the RDA, certain symptoms can appear. These include :
  • abnormal (soapy or salty) taste
  • unusual increase in saliva or drooling
  • rashes
  • weakness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • stomach pain
  • diarrhea
  • slow or irregular heartbeat
  • convulsions or seizures
  • tremors
  • painful or aching bones

In severe cases of over-dosing, fluoride toxicity symptoms include :
  • bone deformities
  • chalky white areas on teeth
  • brown or pitted teeth
  • rapid aging
  • sagging and wrinkled skin
  • scleroderma (hard patches of skin)
  • increased rates of cancer
  • high death rate (where water supply has high fluoride concentration)

Before taking supplements, tell your doctor if you are on any medication, or low-sodium or sodium-free diet, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Also, do not take calcium or magnesium or iron supplements while taking fluoride, without consulting your doctor.

The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine has set Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (ULs) for fluoride.  These are levels above which there is risk of fluoride poisoning, especially when taken over a long time.

Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL) for Fluoride per Day
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
0 to 6 months 0.7 mg 0.7 mg    
7 to 12 months 0.9 mg 0.9 mg    
1 to 3 years 1.3 mg 1.3 mg    
4 to 8 years 2.2 mg 2.2 mg    
9 to 13 years 10 mg 10 mg    
14 years and above 10 mg 10 mg 10 mg 10 mg

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1. Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, vitamin D, and fluoride. Washington DC: National Academy Press; 1997.

2. U.S. National Libary of Medicine [NLM] & National Institutes of Health [NIH]: MedlinePlus. NLM-NIH home page. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus>. Use the built-in search function to find specific data. Accessed 2009 March – June.

3. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center: Fluoride. <http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/fluoride/>. Accessed 2009 Jun 16.

4. Sharon M. Nutrients A-Z: A user's guide to foods, herbs, vitamins, minerals & supplements. 3rd ed. London, UK: Carlton Books; 2005.

5. Ulene A. Dr. Art Ulene's complete guide to vitamins, minerals and herbs. New York, NY: Avery Publishing; 2000.

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