We are constantly being reminded that fluoride is an important component for healthy teeth and bones, and are urged to use products containing fluoride, but if taken in too larger quantities fluoride can become toxic. Toxicity can either be chronic or acute. Anyone suffering from acute fluoride toxicity will have ingested too much fluoride within a very short time span, and this can produce a long list of symptoms including:
- Suffering from abdominal pain or diarrhea
- Vomiting or feeling nauseous
- Feeling weak or noticing the muscles in your hands and feet go into involuntary spams
- Noticing your blood pressure drops and your pulse becomes weak
- Having difficulty catching your breath
If these early symptoms go untreated there is the possibility that it could result in cardiac failure, and the patient could slip into a coma or even die. Other symptoms include having decreased calcium plasma levels and increased plasma potassium levels. One of the first things to do to reduce toxicity levels is to induce vomiting and give calcium orally which will relieve intestinal symptoms. The person should then be admitted to hospital for cardiac monitoring.
So what constitutes a lethal dose? A lethal dose is generally recognized as being anything between 32mg to 64mg per kg of body weight. A toxic dose is between 16mg and 32mg per kg of body weight, while a safe dose is considered to be between 8mg and 16mg per kg of body weight.
Chronic fluoride toxicity can occur through decades of exposure, and can cause a number of symptoms. One of the most common signs of too much fluoride is fluorosis, which causes whitish spots or streaks on the teeth. It is caused by ingesting too much fluoride when the teeth are still developing, and one of the most common sources is swallowing fluoridated toothpaste. This is one of the reasons why dentists frequently recommend parents avoid fluoridated toothpaste for young infants who are unable to spit out the excess.
Fluoride treatment has often been recommended for stimulating bone growth, especially when used in conjunction with calcium, but some studies have linked fluoride to thicker, but weaker bones. This skeletal fluorosis increases bone density, but also causes them to become more brittle, and is a progressive condition.
Fluoridated water is considered a cheap way of helping to reduce the incidence of tooth decay and has been used extensively throughout the US for the last sixty years or so, but recent studies have questioned its effectiveness, as countries without public water fluoridation have shown dental health improvements equal to countries with fluoridated water. It is thought the improvement in dental caries may relate more to access to affordable dental care, rather than water fluoridation.
More people use fluoridated products regularly, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, and don’t necessarily need it added to drinking water. Using fluoridated dental products ensures a low level of fluoride ions remain present in the saliva, helping to protect the teeth from cavities, but it is always wise to discuss their use with your dentist first, and you shouldn’t use any fluoride supplements unless specifically recommended to do so.