Fluoride occurs naturally in the body as calcium fluoride. Calcium fluoride is mostly found in the bones and teeth.
Small amounts of fluoride help reduce tooth decay. Adding fluoride to tap water (called fluoridation) helps reduce cavities in children by more than half.
Fluorides also help maintain bone structure. Low doses of fluoride salts may be used to treat conditions that cause faster-than-normal bone loss, such as menopause.
Fluoridated water is found in most community water systems. (Well water often does not contain enough fluoride.)
Food prepared in fluoridated water contains fluoride. Natural sodium fluoride is in the ocean, so most seafood contains fluoride. Tea and gelatin also contain fluoride.
Infants can only get fluoride through drinking infant formulas. Breast milk has a negligible amount of fluoride in it.
A lack (deficiency) of fluoride may lead to increased cavities, and weak bones and teeth.
Too much fluoride in the diet is very rare. Rarely, infants who get too much fluoride before their teeth have broken through the gums have changes in the enamel that covers the teeth. Faint white lines or streaks may appear, but they are usually not easy to see.
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine recommends the following dietary intake for fluoride:
Adolescents and Adults
The best way to get the daily requirement of essential vitamins is to eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from the food guide plate.
Specific recommendations depend on age and gender. Ask your health care provider which amount is best for you.
To help make sure infants and children do not get too much fluoride:
Diet - fluoride
Hamrick I, Counts SH. Vitamin and mineral supplements. Wellness and Prevention. December 2008:35(4);729-747.
ADA Division of Communications. For the dental patient: infants, formula and fluoride. J Am Dent Assoc. 2007; 138(1):132.
Berg J, Gerweck C, Hujoel PP, King R, Krol DM, Kumar J, et al. American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs Expert Panel on Fluoride Intake. From infant formula and fluorosis. Evidence-based clinical recommendations regarding fluoride intake from reconstituted infant formula and enamel fluorosis: a report of the American Dental Association Council on Scientific Affairs. J Am Dent Assoc. 2011; 142(1):79-87.
Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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