Glossary Detail

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name of the term: Fluoride

Short introduction

  • Fluoride is a trace-element with the symbol F.
  • It is mostly found in bones and teeth.
  • It occurs naturally in soil, water and foods but is also synthesized in laboratories: commonly added to drinking water, toothpaste and mouthwashes.

Main natural sources

  • Rich sources: tea and marine fish that are consumed with their bones (e.g., sardines) and grape juices.
  • Water fluoridation is the controlled addition of fluoride to a public water supply to reduce tooth decay. Many countries have water fluoridation programs. In areas where drinking water is not fluoridated, fluoride can be given as a supplement.

Main function

  • Important for overall bone strength: stimulates formation of bone, increases bone formation earlier and increases spinal bone (backbone) density.
  • Plays a role in preventing tooth decay: as important component of tooth enamel, the hard outermost layer of tooth.
  • When bones and teeth become mineralized, first a crystal called hydroxyapatite forms from calcium and phosphorus. Then, fluoride combines with the structure and forms an even stronger structure that gives bones and teeth (resistance to decay, plaque and weakening) their strength. 

Deficiency disease

  • In humans, the only clear effect of inadequate fluoride intake is an increased risk of dental caries (tooth decay) for individuals of all ages.
  • Specific bacteria found in dental plaque (slime layer of bacteria in the mouth) are capable of converting carbohydrates to organic acids that can dissolve tooth enamel.
  • If unchecked, the bacteria may penetrate deeper layers of the tooth and progress into the soft pulp tissue at the centre.
  • Dental problems may result in other health problems. Untreated caries can lead to severe pain, infection, tooth loss and nutritional problems.
  • Some studies show an association between fluoride deficiency and osteoporosis (increased bone fragility and susceptibility to bone fractures due to a loss of bone mineral density).

Recommended daily intake

Latest Dietary Reference Intakes  (DRIs) 
Institute of Medicine (IOM)

Age categoryPer day

Pregnancy
Lactation

3 mg (AI)
3 mg (AI)
Infants 6 – 12 months0.5 mg (AI)
Children
 1 – 3 years
 4 – 8 years
0.7 mg (AI)
1.0 mg (AI)
Males
 9 – 13 years
14 – 18 years
19 – 30 years
31 – 50 years
50 – 70 years
> 70 years
2.0 mg (AI)
3.0 mg (AI)
4.0 mg (AI)
4.0 mg (AI)
4.0 mg (AI)
4.0 mg (AI)
Females
 9 – 13 years
14 – 18 years
19 – 30 years
31 – 50 years
50 – 70 years
> 70 years
2.0 mg (AI)
3.0 mg (AI)
3.0 mg (AI)
3.0 mg (AI)
3.0 mg (AI)
3.0 mg (AI)

 

AI = Adequate Intake.

Synonyms: Fluoride

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