Fluorides are among the important mineral constituents of the human body. Almost all of the body fluoride is found in the bones and teeth (nearly 99%) in the form of calcium fluoride. In teeth, fluoride is a key component that helps prevent dental cavities and tooth decay. Also, bones are vital to protect our internal organs; they also provide shape and structure to our body and anchor muscles. Fluorides are used to help treat conditions that cause bone loss such as in women after menopause.
Most water sources contain some amounts of dissolved fluorides in them. Besides, when the role of fluoride in fighting dental problems was established, fluoridation of water supplies became a regular practice in many countries; agents of fluorine are routinely added to drinking water. Additionally, fluoride compounds (mostly sodium fluoride) became a steady component of dental products such as toothpastes and mouthwashes.
Due to all these factors, children get exposed to higher than normal concentrations of the fluorine compound and may experience some fluoride side effects. During teeth formation, such an excessive exposure may cause the mottling of teeth, resulting in a condition called dental fluorosis. Removal of fluoride from the body is through urinary excretion. However, a controlled clinical study in young children, conducted in 1994 and published in the Pediatric Research journal, found that only about 20% of the absorbed fluoride is excreted by them, whereas the rate of excretion was about 50% in adults.
According to the US National Academy of Sciences, Food and Nutrition Board, the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of fluoride for adolescents and adults is 3-4 milligrams per day and about 0.7-2 milligrams per day for children. Breast milk contains significantly lower levels of fluoride; however, the fluoride requirement in infants (up to 6-months old) is of a very low order, at about 0.01 milligrams per day.
Foods that contain fluorides in high levels include the following:
- Dill herb
- Unsweetened grape juice
- Vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes, asparagus, and carrots
- Orange, grapefruit, and apple juice
- Beans and peas
- Seedless raisins
- White rice
Ingestion of fluoride compounds may occur in the form of dental products, processed foods, beverages (including tea; tea leaves contain dissolved fluorides), pharmaceutical products, from Teflon pans (when used to boil water or cook food), and even in certain pesticides. Thus, it is always recommended to take the advice of a suitable healthcare professional before bringing about any alteration to your regular food habits and diet.
Hamrick I, Counts SH. Vitamin and mineral supplements. Wellness and Prevention. December 2008:35(4);729-747.
Eksterand J, Fomon SJ, Zeigler EE, Nelson SE. Fluoride pharmacokinetics in infancy. Pediatr Res 1994a;35:157-63.
ADA Division of Communications. For the dental patient: infants, formula and fluoride. J Am Dent Assoc. 2007; 138(1):132.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002420.htm (accessed on 11/24/2014)
http://fluoridealert.org/issues/sources/ (accessed on 11/24/2014)
http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000146000000000000000.html?categories=19,10,8 (accessed on 11/24/2014)
http://ec.europa.eu/health/scientific_committees/opinions_layman/fluoridation/en/l-3/2.htm (accessed on 11/24/2014)
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Yadavı, R. K., Sharma, S., Bansal, M., Singh, A., Panday, V., & Maheshwari, R. (2012). Effects of fluoride accumulation on growth of vegetables and crops in Dausa District, Rajasthan, India.
Chan, L., Mehra, A., Saikat, S., & Lynch, P. (2013). Human exposure assessment of fluoride from tea (Camellia sinensis L.): A UK based issue?. Food Research International, 51(2), 564-570.
Lv, H. P., Lin, Z., Tan, J. F., & Guo, L. (2013). Contents of fluoride, lead, copper, chromium, arsenic and cadmium in Chinese Pu-erh tea. Food research international, 53(2), 938-944.
Rocha, R. A., Devesa, V., & Vélez, D. (2013). In vitro study of intestinal transport of fluoride using the Caco-2 cell line. Food and chemical toxicology, 55, 156-163.
Craig, L., Lutz, A., Berry, K. A., & Yang, W. (2015). Recommendations for fluoride limits in drinking water based on estimated daily fluoride intake in the Upper East Region, Ghana. Science of the Total Environment, 532, 127-137.
Fojo, C., Figueira, M. E., & Almeida, C. M. M. (2013). Fluoride content of soft drinks, nectars, juices, juice drinks, concentrates, teas and infusions marketed in Portugal. Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A, 30(4), 705-712
If you are what you eat, that’s particularly true for your teeth and gums. When you drink and munch starchy or sugary foods, you’re not only feeding yourself, you’re feeding the bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease in your mouth. Plaque is a thin, invisible, sticky film of sticky bacteria and other materials that covers all the surfaces of all your teeth. When sugars or starches in your mouth come in contact with plaque, the acids that result can attack teeth for 20 minutes or more after you finish eating. Repeated attacks can break down the hard enamel on the surface of teeth. This leads to tooth decay. The bacteria in plaque also triggers an inflammatory response that causes the breakdown of the gums, bone, and other supporting structures of your teeth.
Although some foods invite tooth decay, others help fight plaque buildup. Here are some foods to seek out and some to avoid.
The good guys
Some suggested foods:
Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. Foods with fiber have a detergent effect in your mouth, says the American Dental Association (ADA). They also get saliva flowing. Next to good home dental care, this is your best natural defense against cavities and gum disease. About 20 minutes after you eat something containing sugars or starches, your saliva begins to reduce the effects of the acids and enzymes attacking your teeth. Because saliva contains traces of calcium and phosphate, it also restores minerals to areas of teeth that have lost them from the bacterial acids.
Cheese, milk, plain yogurt, and other dairy products. Cheese is another saliva maker. The calcium in cheese, and the calcium and phosphates in milk and other dairy products, help put back minerals your teeth might have lost due to other foods.
Green and black teas. Both contain polyphenols that interact with plaque bacteria. These substances either kill or hold back bacteria. This prevents them from growing or producing acid that attacks teeth. Depending on the type of water you use to brew your tea, a cup of tea can also be a source of fluoride.
Sugarless chewing gum. This is another great saliva maker that removes food particles from your mouth.
The bad guys
Some items to avoid:
Sticky candies and sweets. If you eat sweets, go for those that clear out of your mouth quickly. So thumbs down for lollipops, caramels, and cough drops that contain refined sugar. The effects of chocolate on preventing cavities has been widely promoted (largely by studies funded by the candy industry). But this has not been totally proven. Dark chocolate (70% cacao) does have some health benefits. Some studies have shown chocolate to be not as bad as other sugary treats.
Starchy foods that can get stuck in your mouth. Soft breads and potato chips, for instance, can get trapped between your teeth.
Carbonated soft drinks. These drinks are the leading source of added sugar among kids and teens. Besides being loaded with sugar, most soft drinks contain phosphoric and citric acids that wear away tooth enamel.
Substances that dry out your mouth. These include hard alcohol and many medicines.
Eat for a healthy mouth
The ADA offers these tips to help reduce tooth-decay risk from the foods you eat:
Eat sugary foods with meals. Your mouth makes more saliva during meals, and this helps to reduce the effect of acid production and to rinse pieces of food from the mouth.
Limit between-meal snacks. If you crave a snack, choose something nutritious. Consider chewing sugarless gum afterward to increase saliva flow and wash out food and acid.
Drink more water. Fluoridated water can help prevent tooth decay. If you choose bottled water, check the label for the fluoride content.
Brush your teeth twice a day.
Floss once a day.