One of the most significant functions of fluoride is to maintain the health of bones and teeth. Fluoride helps in improving the density and hardness of bones, thereby making them more stable. It plays a key role in forming the teeth during growth and development by strengthening the tooth enamel. It also protects the teeth from decay by acting in the saliva and creating a layer over the teeth, thereby lowering the damage caused by acids from food and oral bacteria. When bacteria break down carbs and sugars in the mouth, acids are produced, which eat away the minerals in the tooth enamel. Demineralization is the process of losing minerals. A weakened tooth enamel makes the teeth vulnerable to cavity-causing bacteria. Therefore, fluoride helps remineralize tooth enamel that prevents dental caries and reverses early signs of tooth decay. If not treated, dental caries can lead to infections, weight gain, impaired growth and development, affect performance in school, reduce the quality of life, and sometimes result in death.
Health Effects of Fluoride
Although fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, it is still capable of causing potential side effects if consumed in large doses. Dental fluorosis is a condition that occurs due to the consumption of too much fluoride while the teeth are still undergoing formation under the gums resulting in white spots on the surface of the teeth. Dental fluorosis mostly affects children under the age of 8 because they still have their permanent teeth coming in. Since they are also highly likely to swallow toothpaste while brushing, they are at a higher risk of developing such conditions.
The unintentional ingestion of products containing fluoride and fluoride supplements given to children inappropriately may cause abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and death in some rare cases. Skeletal fluorosis is a condition that is similar to dental fluorosis, where the entire skeletal system is affected. Joint pain and stiffness are common early symptoms, and they can change the structure of the bones and induce ligament calcification. Consumption of higher doses of fluoride in the treatment of osteoporosis can cause leg pain, incomplete stress fractures, and irritate the stomach, sometimes very severely causing ulcers.
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