Fluoride is an abundant element on earth’s crust. It is found naturally in soil, water, foods and several minerals.
Fluoride is said to protect the teeth in two ways:
• When bacteria in the mouth combine with sugars they produce acid. This acid can erode tooth enamel and damage our teeth. Fluoride can protect teeth from demineralization that is caused by the acid.
• If there is already some damage to teeth caused by acid, fluoride accumulates in the demineralized areas and begins strengthening the enamel, a process called remineralization.
Fluoride is extremely useful in preventing cavities and making teeth stronger. However, it is much less effective if a cavity has already formed. Several people, especially those at higher risk of tooth decay, benefit from fluoride treatment. Individuals who might benefit from fluoride treatment are the ones with snacking habits, poor dental hygiene, having diets with high sugars or carbohydrates, having history of tooth decay, cavities etc.
Problems with excess fluoride
But, if there is excess fluoride, it could lead to problems. Excessive exposure to high concentrations of fluoride during tooth development (during childhood) can result in tiny white streaks or specks in the enamel of the tooth in mild cases of dental fluorosis. In severe cases of dental fluorosis, the tooth has more evident discoloration and brown markings. The enamel may be rough and pitted, and difficult to clean.
Skeletal fluorosis is a bone disease caused by too much fluoride. In severe cases, there is damage to bones and joints, as well as pain. High fluorine concentrations in the body lead to hardened and less elastic bones, which increases the risk of fractures.
In some cases, the thyroid gland may be damaged, resulting in hyperparathyroidism. In hyperparathyroidism the secretion of parathyroid hormones goes out of control, resulting in depletion of calcium in bone structures and higher-than-normal concentrations of calcium in the blood.
In a nutshell, it is safe to conclude that high doses of fluoride could be harmful, but low doses are beneficial to our health.