Fluoride, a trace mineral, works with all of the nutrient minerals to keep you healthy. Here is a summary of its role in keeping you feeling well.
|What it does||Prevention of dental cavities; Helps maintain teeth and bone health|
| Daily needs |
|[Infants: 0.01-0.5 mg][Children: .7-3 mg] [Men: 4 mg] [Women: 3 mg]|
|Not enough||May lead to tooth decay|
|Too Much||Discoloration of teeth SEVERE: Fluorosis|
|Foods||Tea, seafood, fluoridated water, fish|
*The lower value is for infants up to 6 mos., higher value is for infants up to a year old.
† The first value is for children 1-3 with the amount increasing until age 18.
# Adequate Intake (AI) is the average amount a healthy person consumes; no RDA established.
Look Ma, no cavities!
The only well-established function of fluoride in the body is in the prevention of dental cavities. For this reason, many communities add it to their municipal water supply. The mineral forms part of the crystals in the bones and teeth, making them stronger and the teeth more resistant to decay. There is some evidence that where fluoride is lacking in the water supply, dental cavities are more common
Fluoride is probably the most controversial of the minerals. Some health experts do not consider it an essential mineral, because it is not required for growth and development. Entire websites have been devoted to the evils of fluoridation of water, and this trace mineral is portrayed as no less than a poison. It is difficult to know how to maintain a balance between getting enough to protect your teeth and bones, but not so much that it will have deleterious effects on your health.
Fluoride is added to many brands of toothpaste, as a way to help prevent cavities. The assumption is that you will spit out the toothpaste and not swallow it. However, children under the age of six should be supervised when brushing their teeth, since kids in that age group are more likely to use too much and to swallow the toothpaste.
Ironically, if you get too much fluoride it will show up in your teeth in the form of discoloration and pitting, a condition called “fluorosis.” The incidence of fluorosis has increased, most likely due to its presence in many toothpastes and mouthwashes.
Not much in food
Only a few foods are known to have fluoride. These include tea, grape juice, sardines and chicken. Some water supplies have naturally occurring fluoride, and it is added to municipal water supplies in many localities. Bottled water is generally not a significant source.
The upper intake level for fluoride that has been established is 10 mg per day.