The use of fluoride in toothpaste and drinking water has been debated for years. Some advocates claim that it is harmless, while others insist that there are health benefits.
When it comes to the science of the matter, however, the facts are not in fluoride’s corner. It presents a laundry list of potential harmful side effects. Before we get into those, let us talk about just what sodium fluoride is and where it comes from.
What Is Sodium Fluoride?
Calcium fluoride is a naturally occurring inorganic compound. Unfortunately, many get this confused with sodium fluoride, which is not the same thing. What is even worse is that some use this confusion to purposely mislead people. While calcium fluoride is found naturally in water, soil, and certain food, sodium fluoride is synthetically produced.
Sodium fluoride is a toxic byproduct1 of aluminum, iron ore, and fertilizer manufacturing. Along with being used in drinking water and toothpaste, it is also used in rat poison and various pesticides. It is used in metallurgy2 as a flux, which can be either a chemical cleaning agent, flowing agent, or purifying agent.
Fluoride proponents argue that the substance strengthens and protects tooth enamel. That is true, but only when fluoride is used in very low doses. Excessive fluoride use can lead to dental fluorosis3, a condition that primarily develops in children under nine due to their developing teeth. Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition that leads to mottled enamel, low mineralization, the formation of white marks on the teeth, and discoloration of the teeth. In serious cases, it can even result in pitting in tooth enamel. Even medical professionals who encourage the use of fluoride warn not to give it to babies less than 6 months old.
Dental fluorosis is the basis for the argument against putting fluoride in drinking water and toothpaste. With fluoride being present in products that are consumed daily, it is next to impossible to limit your intake to a safe amount.
Impact On Bone Health
Excessive exposure to sodium fluoride can do a lot more than just harm your teeth. It can also lead to skeletal fluorosis4, which is a bone disease that can damage bones and joints. It causes the bones to become hardened, which increases the risks of fractures and breaks. It can also impair joint mobility if too much bone tissue accumulates.
Too much fluoride can also damage the parathyroid gland, leading to a condition called hyperparathyroidism. This can result in increased amounts of calcium in the blood and less calcium in the bones, again making them more susceptible to fractures.
A 2017 report conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences5 suggests that fetuses exposed to fluoride could experience negative cognitive effects. Researchers measured fluoride levels in 299 pregnant women and in their children aged 6 – 12 years old. Excessive levels of fluoride were associated with poor scores on IQ tests.
In 2014, PubMed Central declared fluoride a neurotoxin that is harmful to child development. In terms of toxicity, they place the compound alongside lead, methylmercury, and arsenic – substances known for being highly dangerous.
This is just a small sample of the myriad of negative conditions and health defects that have been linked to fluoride. That list6 also includes:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Lower fertility
- Bone cancer
Fluoride poisoning, caused by exposure to high levels of the compound, can result in abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, muscle spasms, in serious cases, and even seizures.
Communities Taking Action Against Fluoride
As of 2018, 74 cities across the United States had voted in favor of removing fluoride from their drinking water. In New Jersey, for example, 80% of residents do not have fluoride in their drinking water7. Several cities in Iowa8 and Michigan have also stopped adding fluoride to their water, as well as several suburbs surrounding Philadelphia9.
In 2021, the town of Mims, Florida voted to stop the fluoridation of their drinking water.
This is just a small sample of the cities and towns fighting back against fluoride proponents, but it is enough to show that the battle can be won. People are clearly beginning to recognize the harmful effects of fluoride consumption and the push against fluoridation is gaining more traction every day.
There are multitudes of medical professionals out there who sing the praises of fluoride and how beneficial it is for strengthening enamel and preventing cavities. These benefits are true. However, it is only beneficial in small doses and regulating fluoride intake is extremely difficult.
If it is in your drinking water, you have to choose between staying hydrated or limiting your fluoride intake. If it is in your toothpaste and you are brushing your teeth twice a day, those small amounts of fluoride are going to add up quickly. The same goes for using a mouthwash that contains fluoride.
The truth is that the negatives far outweigh the positives when it comes to fluoride consumption. It should not have to be said that consuming a toxic byproduct of aluminum manufacturing, one that is used to kill rats and pests, is detrimental to your health.
What is more, we still do not understand the full ramifications of ingesting fluoride. People have studied how fluoride interacts with other chemicals. It has been known to attract lead, which it pulls from plumbing pipes10. This has resulted in cases of higher blood lead levels in children and even lead poisoning. The risks are simply too high to continue fluoridating drinking water and dental products.
Slowly but surely, people around the world are waking up to the dangers of fluoridation and making their voices heard. More and more communities are voting to remove fluoride from their drinking water, which is going to embolden other communities to do the same. The days of faulty science are far enough behind us that there’s no excuse to remain ignorant to the dangers of fluoride.