Fluorides in a nutshell:
Fluorides are toxic in high doses. We have it in our drinking water in many parts of the world, and in some cases, it’s far too much and causes problems with bones and teeth. In smaller doses, it may help our bones and teeth grow stronger.
Best source of Fluorides for Juicers
We don’t recommend any type of fluoride supplementation as too much is probably far more dangerous than too little.
The tiny Central Texas town of Bartlett is a dentist's dream. Most people who live in Bartlett make a point of drinking only bottled water, but those who have to drink the municipal tap water usually suffer brown, mottled teeth. Even when people in Bartlett do not have cavities—and an unusually high percentage of Bartlett residents do not—tooth decay is still a major problem. In Bartlett, teeth often simply come out by the root, even without ever having shown any cavities. And what is the reason so many residents of Bartlett, Texas have serious dental problems?
The reason is something most people would not expect. The municipal water supply of Bartlett, Texas has the highest concentration of fluorides in North America, and possibly the highest concentration of fluorides in the world. Too much fluoride can destroy teeth.
And that's not even the worst of it. Bartlett also has an unusual number of people who have thyroid problems or who have had thyroid cancer. Too much fluoride can also wreak havoc on thyroid health. The reason for the problems posed by fluorides in drinking water has to do with chemical similarities of fluorine, bromine, and iodine, as well as fluorides, bromides, and iodides.
Alternative names: Fluoride. Not to be confused with fluorine.
What Are Fluorides?
Fluorides are chemical compounds containing fluorine. In its elemental state, fluorine is a gas. It is a far more potent oxidizing agent (element that donates electrons to other elements) than oxygen itself, quickly and sometimes violently combining with metals to form fluorides. The fluorides formed when fluorine joins other elements tend to be relatively stable. Only under exceptional circumstances that never occur inside a living human body do they ever release fluorine gas.
Fluorine is always toxic. Fluorides are toxic in very high concentrations for plants and animals alike. Many species of plants that are exposed to fluoridated water will develop brown leaf tips or stem rot. Plants do not need fluoride.
In extremely low concentrations, fluorides help animals concentrate calcium in their bones. It's hard to say, however, whether fluorides in any amount are actually “essential.”
Why Are Fluorides Added to Drinking Water?
At the end of World War II, the US Public Health Service devised an experiment to test whether adding fluorides to public drinking water supplies would prevent cavities. A form of fluorine known as sodium fluoride was to be added to the drinking water of Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the end of five-year study cavity rates were to be compared to those in nearby Muskegon, Michigan.
At the end of the five years, Muskegon and Grand Rapids had similar rates of tooth decay. This suggested that adding fluorides to municipal water supplies did not really do any good. So what did the United States Public Health Service do? They added fluorides to the water in Muskegon, too.
Cities around the USA quickly copied the practice. In their haste to promote dental health, however, city administrators failed to notice that the chemical used in the research was sodium fluoride. Many cities started adding hexafluorosilicic acid, a compound so strong that it is used to etch glass. Other cities used a different kind of fluoride left over from making galvanized aluminum. Over 99% of the fluoride, of course, wound up at car washes and on lawns, but some fluoride is used to make soft drinks, juice, wine, and beer. Boiling water to cook vegetables and heating water to make coffee and tea concentrated the fluorides even more. In some cities in the USA it is almost impossible to escape fluorides unless you drink only bottled or purified water and organic beverages.
What Do Fluorides Do in the Human Body?
Fluorides in water and food form strong chemical bonds with calcium. If this happens in the stomach, they can bind calcium so it is never absorbed into the bloodstream. If this happens in the bones or in the enamel of the teeth, it can concentrate calcium so that bones and teeth grow stronger.
Fluorides can also interact with crystals in the bones and teeth. By reacting with water trapped in the crystalline structure of the bones and teeth, they can make these crystals swell, but only when the bone or dental enamel is growing. Just painting fluoride solution on your teeth or taking fluorides after your bones have stopped growing won't have any effect.
And that's probably a good thing. Enlarging the crystals of in the matrix of the teeth and bone changes their architecture so that pressures and stresses are not conducted out of the tooth into surrounding bone. The result can be a tooth or a bone that simply snaps at some point later in life without any warning.
Changing the structure of the bone can increase the risk of cancer. In parts of the world that have naturally fluoridated drinking water, bone cancer is up to 7 times more common in young males. Fortunately, the kind of bone cancer that is encouraged by drinking fluoridated water is relatively survivable.
But there are other problems caused by fluorides that can be even worse. Too much fluoride can take so much calcium out of the bloodstream that the muscles do not contract properly and the pancreas cannot release insulin. Just brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste can result in almost all the calcium in your bloodstream being bound to fluorides. Your parathyroid glands respond to lower levels of bloodstream calcium by releasing 6 to 16 times the usual amount of parathyroid hormone.
This causes even more calcium to be absorbed by your bones. Calcium deposits can interfere with the laying down of collagen fibers that make bones more resilient when they are subjected to pressure. Building up bone minerals can actually make bones more fragile.
Fluorides can also interfere with thyroid function. The thyroid makes thyroid hormone from iodine compounds known as iodides. Iodides enter the thyroid through microscopic channels barely large enough to accommodate a single molecule. Since fluorides are chemically similar to iodides but more reactive than iodides, they can clog these channels and keep them from absorbing iodides. from water, dust, toothpaste, and foods can have this effect. It is most noticeable in people who already suffer hypothyroidism.
How Can You Be Sure of Getting Enough Fluoride Without Getting Too Much?
Many parts of the world have drinking water that actually contains too much fluoride. Southern California, Arizona, most of Texas, and most of Michigan and Ohio in the United States are plagued with excessive natural fluoridation in drinking water, as are the state of Sonora in Mexico, most of Argentina, much of Ivory Coast and The Gambia in western Africa, much of East Africa, and large parts of India and China plus the shores of the Caspian Sea. If you live in one of these areas, you don't need fluoride supplements, fluoride toothpaste, or foods that are high in fluoride.
If you don't live in an area that has naturally fluoridated drinking water, then you still don't need to worry about getting more fluoride if there is fluoride added to your drinking water. In most cases, getting too much fluoride is a far greater problem than getting too little.
How Much Fluoride Is Too Much?
Even tiny amounts of fluoride are too much for infants. Most experts recommend that infants under six months of age be exposed to no more than 0.01 mg of fluoride per day. Children who are exposed to too much fluoride as infants tend to have lower IQs and more learning disabilities at the age of 6. The recommended upper intake levels for older children are considerably higher:
- Babies six months to a year old may be exposed to as much as 0.5 mg of fluorides per day.
- Children aged 1 to 3 may be exposed to as much as 0.7 mg of fluorides per day.
- Children aged 4 to 8 may be exposed to as much as 1.1 mg of fluorides per day.
- Anyone over the age of 8 may be exposed to as much as 1.5 mg of fluorides per day.
If you are drinking 8 glasses of fluoridated tap water per day, however, you are getting 3.0 mg of fluorides per day. And there are also fluorides in some common foods:
- A 3-1/2 ounce or 100 gram serving of of instant tea (a little less than half a cup) of instant tea made from mix contains about 545 micrograms (0.545 mg) of fluorides. A tall glass of instant tea contains more fluoride than an adult should consume in a single day.
- A 3-1/2 ounce or 100 gram serving of of brewed tea (also a little less than half a cup) contains about 380 micrograms (0.38 mg) fluorides. Four cups of tea contain the maximum amount of fluoride an adult should consume in a single day.
- A 3-1/2 ounce or 100 gram serving of of raisins contains 234 micrograms (0.234 mg) of fluorides.
- A 3-1/2 ounce or 100 gram serving of of white wine contains 202 micrograms (0.202 mg) of fluorides.
- A 3-1/2 ounce or 100 gram serving of of shrimp or crab contains about 200 micrograms (0.2 mg) of fluorides.
There are also relatively high, but not dangerous, amounts of fluorides in grape juice, Jell-O (also known as gelatin or jelly), grapes, carbonated beverages of all kinds, instant soups, fruit juice, potatoes, and fish sticks. None of these foods should be given to infants.
Is There Ever a Time that Fluoride Supplementation May Be Helpful?
Medical researchers tested giving post-menopausal women who had osteoporosis a single 75-milligram dose of fluorides to concentrate calcium in their bones. They found certain kinds of fractures actually were more common when women were given additional fluoride. Supplemental fluoride is generally a bad idea, and you probably should even avoid both fluoridated tap water and large amounts of carbonated beverages.