Is fluoride helpful? Is fluoride safe? Let’s dig into the history and science of this mineral to see what we can find.
History of Fluoridation
In the 1930s, researchers found a low incidence of dental caries in areas where water was naturally high in fluoride.1,2 In 1945, the US started adding fluoride to the public water supply, as recommended by the WHO (World Health Organization). It was then considered one of the greatest successes of public health in the twentieth century.1,3
For the past 60 years, studies have poured in. Prior to 1990, there were 113 studies published from 23 countries that saw a 50-60% reduction in dental caries. Between 1990 and 2010, a meta-analysis from 10 countries, with individuals from four to 44 years old, saw a reduction of dental caries between 30-49%.1
Despite overwhelming evidence that fluoride fights tooth decay, studies report “major concerns about excessive fluoride intake and related toxicity are being raised worldwide, leading several countries to ban fluoridation.”1
Today in Europe, only Ireland, Poland, Serbia, Spain, and the UK fluoridate their water. Most developed countries, including Japan and 97% of Europe, do not consume fluoridated water.1 Only 68% of the US drinks fluoridated water.6 Other areas in parts of Asia, Africa, and India have high concentrations of fluoride in their water supplies naturally and are engaged in defluoridation of water supplies.1,4
Today, more than 300 communities in North America have voted to not have their public water supplies fluoridated.5
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Dangers of Fluoride Just in from JAMA!
In a new study just published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that “maternal exposure to higher levels of fluoride during pregnancy was associated with lower IQ scores in children aged 3 to 4 years. These findings indicate the possible need to reduce fluoride intake during pregnancy.”6
The study also reported that fluoride crosses the placenta, and laboratory studies show that it accumulates in brain regions involved in learning and memory. Fluoride alters proteins and neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. Higher fluoride exposure from drinking water has been associated with lower children’s intelligence in a meta-analysis of 27 studies evaluating fluoride exposure.6
The JAMA study goes on to conclude:
The estimate of maternal fluoride intake during pregnancy in this study showed that an increase of 1mg of fluoride was associated with a decrease of 3.7 IQ points across boys and girls.
To our knowledge, this study is the first to estimate fluoride exposure in a large birth study receiving optimally fluoridated water. These findings are consistent with that of a Mexican birth cohort study that reported a 6.3 decrement in IQ in preschool-aged children compared with a 4.5 decrease for boys in our study for every 1 mg. The findings of the current study have shown an association between higher levels of fluoride exposure and lower intellectual abilities in children. Collectively, these findings support that fluoride exposure during pregnancy may be associated with neurocognitive deficits.6
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Other studies have reported:
High levels of fluoride as a neurotoxin has been proven in several animal studies. A 2006 National Research Council report stated that it is apparent that fluorides have the ability to interfere with the functions of the brain and the body by direct and indirect means.
This finding was confirmed by a study where groups of children exposed to 8 ppm fluoride in water were found to have lower average IQs, less children attaining high IQ, and more children affected by low IQ. While 8 ppm is much higher than the fluoride level added to water in fluoridation programs (0.7–1.2 ppm), these results are in consistent with previous studies from China that indicate that fluoride may affect IQ at lower levels.4
US Department of Health Lowers Water Fluoridation Levels
Interestingly, fluoride can have a negative effect on teeth development—called fluorosis or mottling:
Fluorosis, or mottling, is a symptom of excess fluoride intake from any source occurring during the period of tooth development. In 2012, 68% of adolescents had very mild to severe enamel fluorosis. The higher prevalence of enamel fluorosis, especially in fluoridated areas, triggered renewed concern about excessive ingestion of fluoride. In 2015, in response to fluoride overexposure and rising rates of enamel fluorosis, the US Public Health Service recommended an optimal fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg.6
Some Emerging Fluoride Conclusions
The only known association with low fluoride intake is risk of dental caries. Initially, fluoride was considered beneficial when given systemically from food or water supplies during tooth development, but later research has shown the importance and advantages of its topical effects in prevention or treatment of dental caries and tooth decay.1,4
With recent opposition growing worldwide towards fluoridation, emphasizing the potential and serious risk of toxicity, and since the benefit is mainly topical, perhaps it is better to deliver fluoride directly to the tooth instead of ingesting it. Fluoride toothpaste, rinses, and varnish applications have proven their effectiveness in some countries and may be a better solution than water fluoridation.1,4
Today, only 10% of the world’s population is consuming or has access to fluoridated water, which makes the case that topical application may be a more viable solution, without the risks of overfluoridation.1,4
Detox Excess Fluoride with Iodine
After just one dose of 50mg of supplemental iodine, he saw a 78% increase in fluoride in the urine compared to normal urine fluoride levels.7
Learn more about iodine supplementation here.
Research the best fluoride filters for your drinking water here.
I hope you take this new research into account and take a look at where and how much fluoride you and your children are exposed to.