Understanding the Dangers of Excessive Fluoride

Understanding the Dangers of Excessive Fluoride

Fluoride is a mineral used in water and in toothpaste, and occurs naturally by being released from rocks into soil, air, and water. Despite some groups having issues with this mineral in our drinking water, it is actually present in most water though in low concentration. Fluoride is also used in most processed beverages (soft drinks and juices) which accounts for nearly 75 percent of people’s intake of the substance.

Fluoride is placed into water and toothpaste for dental benefits, but too much of the mineral can damage your body. To further explore fluoride, let’s examine its benefits, what conditions excess fluoride can cause, and how they can be treated. Residents of the Houston, Texas, area looking for help with dental issues can find it with our comprehensive medical staff at Fresh Dental Care.

Benefits of fluoride

In small controlled doses, fluoride provides many benefits to your dental health. This mineral is great at preventing — and in some cases reversing — the effects of tooth decay by strengthening the enamel on your teeth. It effectively adds minerals back to teeth when eating sugars and other foods that remove them from teeth by creating acids through bacteria. 

Under most circumstances, you don’t have to monitor the amount of fluoride you or your child gets because it’s already in the water supply in most communities and the controlled doses are found in toothpaste and mouthwash, as regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The recommended amount of fluoride considered to be healthy in water and dental products is 0.7 parts per million.

Conditions excess fluoride can cause

Any concentration of fluoride at 4.0 parts per million or above is considered dangerous, and too much of it can cause your teeth, bones and joints to weaken, creating the following problems:

Dental fluorosis

Overexposure of fluoride can cause white streaks or specks in the enamel of your teeth, as well as discoloration, which can lead to lasting dental damage. Children aged 6 and under are at special risk, and should be supervised to make sure they don’t swallow toothpaste or use mouthwash containing fluoride.

Skeletal fluorosis

This bone disease caused by excess fluoride damages bones and joints, making them less elastic, impairing mobility, and increasing the risks of fractures. This is a rare problem resulting from ingesting large amounts of fluoride over many years.

Fluoride toxicity

Also known as fluoride poisoning, this is the broad term for overexposure to fluoride leading to problems like dental fluorosis and can lead to far worse problems, such as:

It can also cause cardiac arrest in severe cases.

People in areas with high levels of fluoride in the water supply (far above and beyond the recommended amounts) are more likely to deal with the effects of excess fluoride and its possible dangers. Young children’s intake of fluoride should be monitored to prevent problems affecting their teeth and bones as they mature.

Methods of treatment

Treatment depends on whether the problem is sudden (acute) or ongoing (chronic). Acute cases (though rare) are often more immediately dangerous and generally require emergency care to stabilize the fluoride in your body. Stomach pumping may be necessary, and calcium in the form of milk can help stabilize the condition.

Chronic cases often have mild to severe effects on the appearance of teeth, and can be treated with dental appliances like veneerscrowns, dental bonding, and enamel dermabrasion.

To reduce the risks of dental fluorosis or other conditions related to fluoride overexposure, monitor the amount of fluoride you or your children intake, brush your teeth no more than three times daily, and be sure to spit out mouthwash and toothpaste when finished.

If you’re dealing with the effects of dental fluorosis or other related conditions, we can help. Make an appointment with the staff at Fresh Dental Care today to get healthier teeth.

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