What is fluoride?
Fluorine (F) is a widely distributed element in nature. It is a trace mineral existing in our body as fluoride (F-) salts.
AdvertisementsFluoride deficiency can lead to symptoms like dental caries and also possibly osteoporosis. Most of the fluoride in our body is found bound to bones and teeth. Excess of F- can be toxic causing fluorosis, liver damage and hip fractures.
Fluoride function and health benefitsThe well known function of fluoride is its role in reducing tooth decay and strengthening tooth enamel against attack by acid producing bacteria. F- is also found to increase the bone density and is important for maintaining strong bones and lowering risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. F- reduces the ability of the plaque bacteria to produce acid.
Sources of fluoride in foodsFluoride is found in soil, groundwater and seawater. Most of the seafood is found to have fairly good amounts of F-.
Causes of fluoride deficiencyPoor intake of fluoride foods, especially seafood, can cause its inadequacy in the body. In certain areas naturally occurring concentrations of F- in water and soil may be low. The changing lifestyle and dietary habits, inadequate exposure to fluorides and the use of demineralized bottled drinking water has lead to reduced availability of F- for dental health. The increased use of sugar and sugar products has increased the incidence of dental caries, compounding the need for fluoride.
Symptoms of fluoride deficiencyThe early symptoms of fluoride deficiency manifest as dental carries and tooth decay. Low F- levels can lead to symptoms of brittle and weak bones in elderly. Fractured hip may be a possible symptom of F- deficiency.
Treatment of fluoride deficiencyFluoridation of water, salt, milk and toothpaste are the proven methods to counter symptoms of dental carries.
In certain countries tap water is fluoridated by adding small amounts of fluoride (about 1 mg/liter) to the water. World Health Organization considers water fluoridation substantially reduce the prevalence and incidence of dental caries. Several community water fluoridation programs were introduced in the USA. Worldwide, extensive fluoridation programs have also been introduced in several countries.
Salt fluoridation has been introduced in some countries in Latin America as well as in certain European countries. In Jamaica, salt fluoridation was introduced in 1987. Potassium fluoride at a concentration of 250 mg/kg was added to the common salt. A national oral health survey conducted in 1995 confirmed a remarkable fall in the incidence of dental caries.
Milk fluoridation programs conducted in Switzerland, Scotland, Hungary, Chile and Beijing (China) targeting kindergarten and school going children have successfully demonstrated the striking reductions in the symptoms of dental caries.
WHO conducted a school-based intervention study to assess the efficacy of a toothpaste specifically manufactured as an “affordable fluoride-containing toothpaste" in the province of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. One daily supervised tooth-brushing activity was conducted with this toothpaste. The study was evaluated after 3 years and there was significant reductions in the incidence of dental caries.
1.Petersen PE, Lennon MA. Effective use of fluorides for the prevention of dental caries in the 21st century: the WHO approach. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2004 Oct;32(5):319-21.
2.Pizzo G, Piscopo MR, Pizzo I, Giuliana G. Community water fluoridation and caries prevention: a critical review. Clin Oral Investig. 2007 Sep;11(3):189-93.
3.Stephen Peckham, Niyi Awofeso. Water Fluoridation: A Critical Review of the Physiological Effects of Ingested Fluoride as a Public Health Intervention. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014; 2014: 293019.
4.Sheila Jones, Brian A. Burt, Poul Erik Petersen, Michael A. Lennon. The effective use of fluorides in public health. Bull World Health Organ. 2005 Sep; 83(9): 670–676.