Activists belief too much ingestion of fluoride can lead to toxicity especially in children.
Fluoride is an inorganic monoatomic anion that is naturally found in mountainous deposits as calcium fluoride crystals. (Chemical name is calcium fluoride- CaF2). Fluoride is released into the environment naturally into water and air. Hence depending on the area where it is drawn, fluoride concentration varies therefore in naturally occurring in spring water.
Fluoride is found in some foods as well, like spinach, black tea, potatoes, coffee, shellfish (crabs and shrimps mainly), grapes raisins and wine. The amount of fluoride in tea and coffee will also depend on the amount of fluoride in the water used to make it. While those in the plants depends on the soil where they are grown. There are also some trace elements of fluoride in air.
The History Of Water Fluoridation
The history of adding fluoride to drinking water in the United Kingdom started in 1925. An Essex Dentist, on behalf of The Medical Council, researched why children living in the mountainous area have less tooth decay. He then discovered that it was because their water had fluoride in it, hence water fluoridation started in areas perceived to have less natural fluoride.
Most countries (about 97%) do not add fluoride to their water as a general rule. Here in the UK, it is added in areas perceived as those with low natural fluoride, and it is done to prevent tooth decay.
This means in essence that water fluoridation is a medical treatment, that you may not need. And this is one reason for those who oppose water fluoridation.
It is better to treat people with tooth decay with fluoride instead of having a general supply of water with fluoride in it. Fluoride can also be found in mouthwash, professionally applied tooth gel, vanish, foam and dietary supplements.
Tooth decay is a destruction of tooth tissue caused by acids formed by bacteria dental plaque. Dental plaque is a sticky film that is constantly formed on the teeth. Dental plaque is prone to sugar and forms an acid that attacks tooth tissue.
If plaque is allowed to build up, it can damage both the gum and the teeth.
The Safety Of Water Fluorination
As mentioned above, some people oppose general water fluoridation simply because there are other instances of fluoridation like in toothpaste, salt and milk, for examples. This, unfortunately, allows too much ingestion of fluoride into the body.
The only benefit of fluoridation is to prevent dental decay (sometimes known as dental caries). However, too much fluoride in the system has many disadvantages, like dental fluorosis (in tooth enamel), and skeletal fluorosis(in the bone), which can occur following a high exposure fluoride.
Those who oppose general fluoridation prefers medical treatment directly to those who need it. The World Health Organisation, (WHO) wants to strike a balance between overexposure and underexposure.
Those against would also prefer the government to concentrate on waterborne diseases instead.
This is where fluoride is added to milk, particularly the milk delivered to children in school. Children from the age of four years are required to take this to prevent the early onset of tooth decay.
The World Health Organisation, (WHO) currently supports fifteen countries of the world in milk fluoridation programme to kindergarten pupils. A Bulgaria study in 2015, showed positive results in the effectiveness of milk fluoridation in preventing caries.
The fact that water fluoridation is limited by good infrastructure and central water system, prevents making this available in as many countries as they (WHO) would want it to be. This is true of many developing countries in particular. Hence salt fluoridation comes into play.
Salt fluoridation was first initiated in Switzerland in 1955, after a successful result of using salt to prevent goitre. Salt fluoridation is available as table salt, catering packs, in bread, and as food condiments etc.
Adding fluoride to toothpaste is another measure initiated by the government to prevent tooth decay, in both adult and children. The amount of fluoride is measured in parts per million (ppm).
Those kinds of toothpaste between 1350 and 1500 ppm, are the most effective. However, dentists sometimes prescribe higher ones, if the teeth and gum need special attention due to high risk, or advanced tooth decay.
There are other dental fluoride treatments like mouth rinses, vanish and gel. Vanish and gel are professionally applied by dental practitioners.
There are some foods and drugs that contain fluoride, the list, although not exclusive are:
- Some ready foods and snacks that are season with rock salt are found to contain 157 ppm of fluoride.
- Chewed tobacco
- Some medication like antibiotics, antidepressants, antifungal, cholesterol-lowering drugs, anti-inflammatory, antacids, arthritis, osteoporosis and steroids drugs all contain some fluoride.
Major Concerns About Excessive Fluoride Intake And Its Related Toxicity
The intake of fluoride can be from water, toothpaste, salt, milk, and seafood (mainly through edible shellfish like crabs, prawns, lobster etc) and dietary supplements.
Toothpaste, mouth rinses and water are the most common route that fluoride is ingested. The fluoride in toothpaste mixes with saliva and forms a film on the enamel preventing a further acid attack.
However, some of the fluorides are swallowed, not to talk of children who deliberately lick and swallow toothpaste.
Dietary fluoride is easily absorbed into the stomach and small intestine, and taken up by calcified tissues (like the bones and teeth). Any excess is passed out via urine. Concerns are in relation to high ingestion of fluoride:
1. Bone Osteoblast Activities
Fluoride in bone shows bone osteoblast activities, especially in the lumbar spine. This simply means that bone density is constantly changing between the bone cells taking in minerals and ions and also releasing them.
This in essence means that the fluoride concentration in the bone cells keeps increasing. This can lead to alterations of mineral homeostasis, a condition prevalent in renal failure. It was initially thought this will increase help for those with osteoporosis, but unfortunately, it makes no difference to them.
This is a debilitating bone illness (weakness) caused by excessive accumulation of fluoride in the hard tissues of the body. This can cause changes in bone mineral and absorption, (as explained above). It ranges from low bone density, weak bones and in very bad cases, bone and joint pain.
Early symptoms include stiffness of the joints, and in the later stage, ligaments may calcify resulting in muscle pain. In extreme cases, there could be bone constriction which exerts pressure on blood vessels and nerves leading to paralysis.
This is the effect of fluoride on soft tissues of the body. The effects are:
- Low haemoglobin level — Accumulation of fluoride in red blood cells will eliminate calcium, making the cells vulnerable to macrophages (eaten up)and eliminated from circulation.
- Ligaments and blood vessels calcification — these my harden up, thereby blocking the flow of blood.
- Urinary Tract Infection — Accumulation of fluoride gives unhealthy urine a red colour, which may later cause itching of the genitalia.
- Muscle Weakness — will definitely prevent normal daily activities.
- Neurological — Excessive fluoride can result in nervousness and depression, tingling in fingers and toes, excessive thirst and the need to urinate all the time.
- Gastro-intestinal — severe abdominal pain, nausea, and salivating.
3. Dental Fluorosis
This is easily noticeable by the appearance of staining and pitting on the surface of the teeth. This should not be confused with tobacco and tea staining which can easily be whitened.
The teeth appear chalky white, sometimes with dark spots.
Reduction of fluoride accumulation in the body
If there is so much against mass fluoridation by the government, what alternatives do we have to safeguard ourselves from high fluoride ingestion?
1. Stop Using Fluoride Toothpaste
— There are many non-fluoride toothpaste and rinses available on the market. Find one that suits you.
2. Defluoride your drinking water
— There are so many ways that are possible to remove fluoride from your drinking water.
a). One is by chemical precipitation — by adding alum to the water. The alum collects the fluoride as sludge on the bottom. The sludge is discarded, and water collected on top of the container is safe defluoride water for drinking.
b). Electrolyte defluoridation — an aluminium electrolyte is passed into the drinking water tank in the house. The electrolyte absorbs the fluoride as sludge. This is then washed away, and the water is safe for drinking.
c). Filtration — This is by filtration through materials that do absorb fluorides such as activated alumina, activated charcoal or ions resins.
Please note that filtration taps, filtration through activated carbon, (commonly sold for house use) as well as boiling and freezing do not remove fluoride.
d). Ionic Separation — includes reverse osmosis and electro-dialysis where the ions atom is removed, thus making it ineffective to bond with a hydrogen atom in the water, thus unable to fluoride the water.
3. Healthy Eating
— particularly to counter the effect of fluoride in your system. Foods rich in calcium, iron, antioxidants and Vitamin C are particularly effective.
4. Good Oral Hygeine
The effect of this cannot be underestimated to prevent tooth decay and gum diseases. If you have any of this, your dentist will have no choice other than treating you with high fluoride dental gel and vanish.