Is Fluoride Safe?
By Tyler Woodward
Fluoride has become a household name with as American fluoridate their water across, use it in toothpaste
- What Is Fluoride
- Fluoride & The Thyroid
- Fluoride & Developmental Intelligence
- Fluoride & The Teeth
- Fluoride & Tap Water
- Fluoride Alternatives
What Is Fluoride:
Fluoride, also commonly known as fluorine, is the 9th atomic element found in the periodic table. Due to fluoride’s chemical properties, fluoride is the most reactive element on the periodic table. Fluoride is the most electronegative element, basically meaning it acts like a huge magnet attaching to anything nearby. Additionally, because fluoride is the smallest of the halogens (group of chemical elements including chlorine & iodine) it has the smallest atomic radius, meaning it’s negative charge is extremely concentrated over a small area.
Fluoride is so reactive, it’s quite literally never found in its ionic form (by itself) outside of a laboratory. Fluoride is always bound to one of the electrolytes including: sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, hydrogen or lithium. But because fluoride is so reactive, it’s not very ‘content’ and it doesn’t like to stay put. Fluoride in this aspect acts very similar to a magnet and can deplete your body of these essential electrolytes.
Fluoride & The Thyroid:
Arguably, more importantly though fluoride competes with the other halogens. Iodine is an extremely essential element in the production of the thyroid hormones T3 & T4. These hormones are responsible for regulating your metabolism and without enough iodine your body can’t make them.
This is likely the largest contributing factor to fluoride causing hypothyroidism which is estimated to affect between 5-10% of the population and is most common in women. Without iodine and thereby enough your metabolism very quickly becomes out of whack. Hence the need for fortification (addition) of iodine in foods like iodized salt.
Fluoride has been found in a number of studies to have a direct impact on thyroid health & metabolism. One study found a direct link between fluoridated water and hypothyroidism. Fluoride has also been found to significantly reduce the amount of thyroid hormones T3 & T4, while drastically increasing TSH, thyroid stimulating hormone.
TSH is produced in the adrenal gland and signals to the body to increase its production of the thyroid hormones T3 & T4. In this scenario, the fluoride is likely draining the body of iodine preventing the production of these hormones, so the body responds by trying to ramp up its thyroid hormone production, likely to no avail due to the lack of iodine present.
Iodine in many ways acts in the opposite fashion of fluoride. Due to iodine’s large size relative to fluoride it is extremely stable and can actually act as anti-oxidant, “sucking up” free radicals and mitigating oxidative stress. In fact, iodine has been used in a number of studies as an “anti-cancer” or anti-proliferative agent.
Read More: What Does It Mean To Be Healthy?
Fluoride & Developmental Intelligence:
A number of studies recently have found that fluoridated water impacts the intelligence of children, specifically in boys. Interestingly, 5 of 100 of adults 12 or older exhibit direct symptoms of hypothyroidism. Thyroid hormone and a high-functioning metabolism is an essential component of growth, both in the brain and the rest of the body. Without enough energy, the body and brain cannot develop fully, of which the thyroid hormones directly regulate energy production and utilization.
Learning and growth in general are extremely metabolically expensive, meaning it takes a lot of energy to do. If the body has adequate energy, as normally found in children, it has a much easier time of learning and adapting to the stimuli. The more starved the body is for energy, the more difficult it is to create new adaptations (AKA learning).
Anyone that’s tried to put on muscle before will recognize how difficult it is to do so. Your body does not want to put on more muscle than it has to because it’s extremely metabolically expensive. But given enough stimulus (resistance training) and nutrients (calories, carbs, protein & vitamins) it will do so over time.
Last, but not least, it's worth mentioning that fluoride is readily capable of crossing the blood-brain barrier and can accumulate in the central nervous system and is now considered a known neurotoxin in India!
Fluoride & Teeth:
Fluoride is most well known for its role in protecting teeth from developing cavities. Dental plaque, the stuff that your dentist scrapes off, is made from calcium and caused by mineral dysregulation in your body. Fluoride reacts with the calcium deposits found on teeth and reacts with them causing remineralization to occur. You might think of this as like getting a fresh coat of wax on your car, it helps to increase the strength of the barrier between your teeth’s enamel and the food you eat.
As a result, fluoride has been shown to increase both the hardness and the amount of remineralization in your teeth, but as you know now this is not without consequence. Fluoride and fluoridated water has also recently been connected to fluorosis, a condition which is marked by the discoloration of teeth.
Additionally, for fluoride to be effective it must sit in your teeth topically for a few minutes in order to be fully absorbed. This doesn’t occur effectively when brushing your teeth, as brushing your teeth temporarily removes the biofilm (a layer that naturally forms on your teeth), but the fluoride must quite literally sit on your teeth beneath the biofilm. Not to mention, the dose you would need for fluoride to have these effects is significantly larger than found in commercial toothpaste. Because fluoride is so toxic if consumed, toothpastes with high fluoride contents must be prescribed from a dentist.
Read More: The Importance Of Micronutrients
Fluoride & Tap Water:
Fluoridated water is argued to be one of the top health accomplishments in the world and is now found in 48 of the 50 states, but without much evidence to back it. The idea for fluoridated water came from a dentist in Colorado Springs who found high quantities of fluoride in the town’s drinking water and a high occurrence of fluorosis, but a low occurrence of cavities.
Fluoridated water was first administered as part of a study in Grand Rapids Michigan and Newburgh, New York with the control groups of the study being nearby cities without fluoridated water. The study was supposed to last for 15 years, but was never actually completed, as within a few years both control city’s switched to fluoridated water.
While tooth decay in children has decreased drastically over the last century, the reason why is pretty up in the air. Countries with non-fluoridated water like Denmark, Luxembourg, and Belgium have much lower rates of cavities compared to the US among other countries with fluoridated water. Other countries like Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan have tried fluoridated water and stopped using it without an increase in tooth decay.
Whether or not fluoridated water helps prevent tooth decay is still up for scientific debate. The Cochrane Institute did an analysis on the effect of fluoridated water reviewing over 4,000 studies on the effects, but only 155 of which met their criteria for a ‘high-quality’ study and even many of those were subject to a high-risk of confirmation bias. Although the Cochrane institute did find evidence of flurodating water helping to prevent tooth decay in children, it did not find sufficient evidence in adults and is yet to determine whether this effect holds true for a larger variety of genetic backgrounds.
Alternatives To Fluoride:
While fluoride may have it's benefits, it also is packed with a ton of detriments. Luckily, modern innovation has provided us with other methods of maintaining our dental healthy and preventing tooth decay.... introducing hydroxyapatite.
Hydroxyapatite is the chemical your body naturally produces in order to re-mineralize your teeth. Hydroxyapatite tooth paste uses a bio-identical form of hydroxapatite (same chemical as your body produces) to prevent cavities and tooth decay and has been shown to be equally as effective as fluoride, without the side effects of fluoride.
My favorite brand is Boka Toothpaste (no affiliation), but there are a number of other high-quality brands on the market including Risewell. And if you don't want to shelll out $10 on a tube of toothpaste, I'd recommend using a baking soda-based toothpaste or making your own toothpaste at home!
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