Fluorine is a micronutrient that is closely related to bone and tooth health. It affects the dentin and enamel of teeth and it is believed that in the right amounts it plays a crucial role in preventing cavities.
The greatest source of fluorine is water but people also get it from food additives, fluoride toothpaste and food.
In some countries it is added in the milk, bread and other food products. Even though it's widespread, know that overdosing with fluorine can be dangerous to health, while controlling the amount of fluorine that kids get is crucial. From this we can make the conclusion that fluorine is as harmful as it is beneficial - especially for little children.
There is a ton of debate regarding the question of how healthy fluorine is and whether its harms far outweigh its supposed benefits. According to some experts it has concrete advantages for teeth and bones, while others say it is necessary but should not be overdosed with.
Benefits of Fluorine
The fluorine we take in reaches our tooth enamel by way of the saliva. It ends up there through our consumption of water, food, tablets and fluoride drops. Fluorine can also end up in our body by use of fluoride toothpaste.
The prevailing mineral in our tooth enamel and bones is called hydroxyapatite, which is composed of calcium and phosphorus. With the added presence of fluorine, this mineral transforms into a different mineral - fluorapatite, which makes the bones and teeth much stronger and serves as a barrier against bacteria.
This is also the main role that fluorine plays. When there is not enough fluorine present, fluorapatite transforms back into hydroxyapatite and thus the enamel becomes weaker. Then, the bacteria in saliva and tooth plaque slowly break it down and cavities are formed.
Overdose of Fluorine
Overdosing with fluorine can happen in several ways. The most common way is by taking drops or tablets and the 2nd most common - excessive ingestion of water. It is a very rare occurrence to overdose with fluorine in food. Continued overdose with fluorine is highly dangerous because it can lead to the dangerous condition known as fluorosis.
Fluorosis is a change in bone structure, the bones become weaker and brittle, a condition known as skeletal fluorosis. Another negative effect is dental fluorosis, which wrecks the teeth. Teeth affected by fluorosis are very difficult to treat.
Fluorosis is not simply an aesthetic problem - it is also an incredibly serious health problem which must not be underestimated at all. In the mildest form of dental fluorosis there are white and brown spots visible on the tooth crowns.
In the more severe forms, the teeth can change their color entirely, they become highly crumbly and unstable, leading to the rapid development of cavities and decay after they come in. Fluorosis is a disease predominantly affecting children during tooth development and is not treatable. Children up to 4 years of age are at highest risk but the risk remains until they reach the age of 8.
There is a wide range of claims that overdosing with fluorine can cause fertility problems and even cancer diseases but the World Health Organization denies them. Still, WHO confirms the negative influence of fluorine overdose on bones and teeth. As such, both adults and children have to take care when it comes to its intake.
Prophylactics with Fluorine
Children's teeth mineralize in 2 main stages - before and after they erupt. Endogenous prophylaxis is done before they erupt and 2 years after they do, exogenous prophylaxis is done.
Endogenous prophylaxis consists of targeted ingestion of fluorine from food, tablets and water. It is applied with the goal of enamel remineralization and assuring high resistance of the teeth.
During pregnancy, targeted fluorine intake bears a real risk of overdose. It is hazardous to the fetus, where the mineralization of the baby teeth is not yet complete. The period between the birth of the baby and its reaching 1 year of age is right for carrying out endogenous prophylaxis of the teeth.
Exogenous prophylaxis is the application of fluorine directly onto the tooth enamel by using gels, solutions and toothpastes. This prophylaxis is applied as a local treatment after tooth eruption.
Permissible Daily Doses of Fluorine
Since the hazards of fluorine overdose are extremely serious, it's important to know the recommended daily dose. For adults it is 2-4 mg of fluorine per day. For children up to 3 years of age it is 0.8 mg, for children 3-6 years old it is 1 mg and for children 10 and older the daily dose of 1.3 mg should not be exceeded.
Sources of Fluorine
There are several main sources of fluorine. Food supplements enriched with fluorine are the first. Drinking water is another good source but unfortunately it carries the greatest risk of unknowingly exceeding the daily maximum.
Toothpastes and mouthwashes are other sources of fluorine. The important rule here is to use 1 pea-size amount of toothpaste when brushing your teeth. Younger children should be supervised by an adult when brushing because there is a danger of swallowing.