Is fluoride bad for you – it's everywhere?
There are two sides to any story, and that is definitely true in the case of fluoride. Since being introduced into the public water supplies of much of the U.S. and several other countries like the UK and Ireland in the 1960s, a consistent debate has existed on whether or not fluoride is truly safe as a water additive or dental health product.
The Centres of Disease Control (CDC) states, “Because of its contribution to the large decline in cavities in the United States since the 1960s, CDC named community water fluoridation one of 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.” The American Dental Association agrees, and have done so since the beginning of public water fluoridation in the mid-1900s.
So fluoride must be ok then, right?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t that simple.
Quite the opposite proves to be true – a body of research has existed since before fluoride was ever approved for dental use finding it has the ability to cause long-lasting negative health effects in various bodily systems.
What Is Fluoride?
“Fluoride” refers to any compound containing a fluorine ion. As a pure gas, fluorine is “the most reactive and electronegative of all the elements.” It has extremely damaging effects to any living organism with which it comes into contact.
In nature, calcium fluoride (CaF2) is found in soil and water. Spring water in areas without industries that regularly use fluoride generally contains about 0.01-0.03 ppm (parts per million, also known as milligrams per liter or mg/L) of calcium fluoride naturally, while seawater is closer to 1.3 ppm.
In some parts of the world, calcium fluoride is found up to 10–20 ppm in water supplies, which is universally recognised as an unsafe ingestible amount.
This is NOT the same compound is what’s added to their drinking water. Calcium fluoride is not well-absorbed into the body, whereas sodium fluoride (NaF) is. This chemical compound does not occur in nature and was generally considered industrial toxic waste until 1950 when it was announced as a new dental health initiative.
1945 marked studies in the U.S. to compare the prevalence of cavities (dental decay) between children and adults drinking fluoridated or unfluoridated water. According to the CDC, dental decay was reduced by 50–70 percent in fluoridated communities during the 13–15 years of these “studies.”
However, no data is available for the amount of cavity reduction experienced by the “control” communities in these experiments. Interestingly, dental health has improved steadily in both fluoridated and unfluoridated communities.
Be aware though that the fluoride used in your drinking water is not calcium fluoride nor sodium fluoride. Instead, it’s a compound known as hydrofluorosilicic acid (HFS or FSA). HFS is a by-product of the process used to create phosphate fertilisers that used to be considered toxic waste and is now a public health initiative added to your family’s water.
In a petition submitted in 2013 by a former EPA scientist, J. William Hirzy, Ph.D., and colleagues requested the EPA to discontinue the use of HFS in public water due to the proven adverse effects it may have on human health, including issues via the presence of arsenic.
The additive used to try and improve your dental health also contains arsenic.
Not only does hydrofluorosilicic acid contain arsenic, but it also leaches lead from piping at much greater rates than sodium fluoride, although both compounds have this effect. Lead crosses the blood-brain barrier and has no known safe level of contamination that won’t cause harmful effects, such as cancer.
Is fluoride safe for you?
According to the CDC and other governmental bodies, there is only one known cosmetic issue that occurs from too much fluoride: fluorosis.
In the CDC’s website, they provide a toxicology guide for fluorines, fluoride and hydrogen fluoride. This guide sets a “minimal risk level” of fluoride at 0.05 mg/kg/day for chronic exposure, which defines the amount of fluoride that would cause issues when chronically ingested.
This means that a 72 kg person drinking an optimal amount of water (2 litres) from a fluoridated source would ingest 1.66 milligrams of fluoride from water alone. The CDC’s given “minimal risk level” of 0.05 mg/kg/day means this person should not consistently consume this amount of fluoride each day as they may suffer adverse effects.
This doesn’t consider the additional fluoride from toothpaste, mouthwash, food and drinks that the same person would also regularly ingest. It also is considering a full-grown adult who understands how to not swallow toothpaste, which can’t always be said for a small child brushing his teeth with fluoridated toothpaste with 1,000 times the fluoride of tap water per volume.
The adverse effects of fluoride are not just related to cosmetic damage to teeth (fluorosis) as the CDC has finally included a prevalence of “increased bone fractures in the elderly” related to drinking fluoridated water after they could no longer avoid the evidence. This is not listed on the community fluoridation material they distribute.
A growing number of professionals have doubted the safety of water fluoridation in its current state for many decades.
The problem exists because the amount of long-term, high-quality, unbiased research available is limited to non-existent. Given the level of interest surrounding the issue of public water fluoridation, it is surprising to find that little high-quality research has been undertaken.
In 2006, the National Research Council conducted a review entitled “Fluoride in Drinking Water: A Scientific Review of EPA’s Standards.” Their research led them to a few conclusions about the safety of fluoride according to available data at that time:
They concluded that water fluoridation did play a part in increasing the dental health of communities when first implemented, but that the presence of fluoride in so many foods and other products today should give pause to whether or not our children are getting “too much of a good thing.”
Another expert who spoke out about concerns about the safety of fluoride is John Colquhoun, a dentist in New Zealand who was appointed to Principal Dental Officer of Auckland. Dr Colquhoun, once passionately pro-fluoridation, re-examined the facts and studies available on fluoridation and wrote an explanation of his staunchly anti-fluoridation stance in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine in 1997. When he was presented with the evidence of the decline of tooth decay in totally non-fluoridated communities, his conclusion was that fluoride actually does far more harm (to the teeth and other parts of the body) than it ever does good.
What does fluoride do to the body?
When ingested, fluoride passes the blood-brain barrier, meant to protect the brain and nervous system from the damage of foreign invaders, and can pass through the placenta into the body of an unborn baby.
Fluoride bio-accumulates, meaning that not all of it is metabolized and/or excreted by your body’s natural waste disposal. About 50 percent of the fluoride you ingest through water or other food sources is excreted by urine, while the other half tends to accumulate in the calcified areas of the body, such as bones and teeth. (Alkaline urine better removes fluoride from the body than acidic urine).
In addition to bones and teeth, fluoride builds up in the pineal gland, a hormone gland responsible for the secretion of melatonin to manage circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. Fluoride plays a part in the calcification of this gland, which would lead to poor melatonin production over time.
Since it passes the blood-brain barrier, increased fluoride content in the brain led to increased levels of neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, histamine, serotonin and glutamate and decreased levels of norepinephrine, acetylcholine and dopamine in a dose-dependent manner.
Fluoride also inhibits various enzymes throughout the body responsible for normal processes of your metabolic energy systems.
Is fluoride good for your teeth?
Fluoride is a part of the process by which teeth demineralise and remineralise each day. When you eat and drink certain foods, the mineral on your teeth is stripped by small amounts, and using fluoride topically helps to remineralise and calcify teeth, making them stronger and less susceptible to dental cavities.
Because many families rely on tap water for the most cost-effective method of water intake, fluoride was introduced to public water supplies to prevent cavities in children who may not have good access to regular dental care. According to research from various sources, fluoridation does decrease the incidence of dental caries and the number of teeth affected by these issues, although many of these studies are defined as “low” or “moderate” quality at best when reviewed.
The role of fluoride in dental health was discovered, somewhat by accident, by a dentist named Frederick McKay. McKay documented reports of what was called “Colorado Brown Stain,” discolouration on the teeth seen in children who grew up in Colorado Springs, and also noted that teeth with this discolouration were more resistant to decay. Subsequent analysis of similar findings led to the realisation that water naturally high in fluoride had a teeth-strengthening effect, although it may also result in mottled teeth.
Now known as “dental fluorosis,” this condition is prevalent mostly among children under the age of eight who are not completely rid of their baby teeth. Understood to be mostly a cosmetic problem, fluorosis does not always result in mottled adult teeth (although it can, and is irreversible).
Many people consider dental fluorosis to be a problem that may only result in a bit of embarrassment or social anxiety; however, I think it may be an outward symptom of a much more systemic problem.
Dental fluorosis has continued to affect a great deal of the U.S. population and rates continue to rise, according to CDC statistics. This is most likely due to the vast number of fluoride sources now available to the public.
Countries widely using fluoridated water in public systems have seen a decline in cavities but that trend is almost identically matched in similar countries who have never practised public water fluoridation.
The CDC conducted a study between 1986–1987 of dental decay in children across a number of cities in the U.S. They found that fluoridated communities did have a lower number of cavities per child than unfluoridated communities but barely — 2 versus 2.1. This incredibly small difference is yet another reason it does not make sense to me that our public water supplies are still “enhanced” with fluoride.
The UK Department of Health still concludes, however, that the fluoridation of water, milk and salt is the best and safest way to prevent dental decay. This is echoed by the American Dental Association in their public marketing piece, “Fluoridation Facts.”
Is fluoride bad for you?
I believe fluoride is an unnecessary chemical that should not be in public water supplies, and that it has the potential to damage your body.
Many experts have been concerned about the bio-accumulation of fluoride due to the overwhelming availability of fluoride in dental products, food, drinks and water, including a group of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) union members who have urged the EPA to change their stance on water fluoridation and a group of almost 5,000 medical professionals across several countries who have signed the Fluoride Action Network’s petition to end water fluoridation.
Because of the dangers of fluoride toxicity, the FDA began requiring a warning on all fluoride toothpaste manufactured after April 1997 to contact the nearest poison control centre if the toothpaste is ingested because this “drug” may cause adverse effects. Remember, toothpaste contains somewhere around 1,000 times more fluoride per volume than fluoridated water.
One concern held is the hazards of using silicofluorides (HSF) to fluoridate water, rather than sodium fluoride, the substance which has been used in virtually all fluoride safety research whereas HSF has not been subjected to the research of anywhere near the same degree.
Fluoridated water using HSF contains 100 times more arsenic than fluoridated water using sodium fluoride at 0.7 ppm (the current standard).
Ingestion of large amounts of fluoride is not good for you. While it may offer certain teeth strengthening benefits when used topically, I don’t think the benefits outweigh the very serious long-term costs.
Sources of Fluoride You Probably Don’t Know About
Fluoride isn’t just in toothpaste and tap water. If you’re trying to avoid fluoride, you should be aware that it is found in the following, both naturally and unnaturally:
Can you reduce fluoride intake?
Many people trying to reduce their fluoride intake opt for bottled water, which does come with its own set of concerns but generally does not contain fluoride. The FDA requires bottled water containing fluoride to be labelled as such.
If your water is fluoridated you can also install a reverse osmosis water filtration system to remove it from the water you drink.
Essentially fluoride has not been proven safe, there is no control of the “dosage” as everyone consumes differing amounts of water and fluoride-containing products, it is mass medication without informed consent and without knowledge of your health history.
To enforce a “drug” onto communities in this way is not only highly unethical but also potentially dangerous to health. All in the name of supposedly reducing tooth decay rates.
If you are looking for a fluoride-free holistic approach to your dentistry then give us a call.