Fluoride is a very controversial trace mineral. It is not needed for any biological functions within the body and is only found in very small amounts in some foods which include legumes, potatoes, tea and canned fish with bones. The majority of the fluoride that we consume comes from fluoridated water and toothpaste. It is absorbed in your small intestine, circulated to your blood and liver, taken up by bones and teeth, and any excess is excreted in the urine.
While many dentists promote the use of fluoride because of its ability to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities, there are many opponents who believe the risks aren't worth the benefits. Some individuals believe that fluoride's addition to our water is a type of "forced medication" to prevent tooth decay, and that it is not moral, ethical or safe.
Fluoride toxicity can definitely be a cause for concern, especially for small children who swallow large amounts of toothpaste daily or when water sources are high in this trace mineral [I]. Fluoride toxicity symptoms include GI upset, heart problems, watering eyes, excess saliva production, pitting and discoloration of teeth (dental fluorosis), weakening of the skeleton (skeletal fluorosis) and even coma in severe cases.
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
Men 4 mg/day
Women 3 mg/day
Upper Level Dosage (UL) 10 mg/day
A proposed alternative to fluoridation is to use vitamin D. According to the Vitamin D Council, "Use of vitamin D appears to be a better option for reducing dental caries than fluoridation of community water supplies, as there are many additional health benefits of vitamin D and a number of adverse effects of water fluoridation" [II]. While adding vitamin D to the water supply sounds like it might be a better option than fluoride, this approach may not be without problems as well. The synergy of multiple nutrients is needed for healthy teeth and bones and includes more than just vitamin D. Calcium and phosphorus are needed along with vitamin D to support mineralization. If we add just vitamin D, we lose this synergy and what could happen as a result is unknown.
More studies are required to tip the scales one way or another regarding fluoride use, and until that time consumer awareness and education is all we have to make our own individual decisions. If you are concerned with the amount of fluoride that you are consuming, be sure to eat a diverse diet rich in all of the nutrients mentioned to give your teeth what they need to remain healthy. To reduce the amount of fluoride you may be getting, simply avoid fluoridated water (6 cups of tap water contains roughly 1.01 mg of fluoride) and avoid fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses.
[I] AR Shivashankara,YM Shivaraja Shankara, S Hanumanth Rao, P Gopalakrishna Bhatb. "A clinical and biochemical study of chronic fluoride toxicity in children of Kheru Thanda of Gulbarga district, Karnataka, India." International Society for Fluoride Research, 2000; Vol. 33 No. 2 66-73. We. May. 2016. <https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Perumunda_Bhat/publication/216701834_A_clinical_and_
[II] Grant, William. "Ultraviolet-B and vitamin D reduce risk of dental caries". Vitamin D Council, 2001. Web. May. 2016. <https://www.vitamindcouncil.org/blog/ultraviolet-b-and-vitamin-d-reduce-risk-of-dental-caries/>.