Fluoride

See "The Fluoride Connection" in chapter 8. What it does:

  • Helps harden tooth enamel and so helps protect your teeth from decay.
  • May offer some protection from osteoporosis, or brittle bone disease, by helping to strengthen bones.

If you don't get enough: Tooth enamel may be weak.

If you consume excess amounts: With excessive fluoride, teeth become mottled, or marked with brown stains, although teeth are healthy in every other way. Be aware that these stains may have other causes as well. The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) is 2.2 milligrams of fluoride daily for children ages four through eight; from age nine through adulthood, the UL is 10 milligrams of fluoride daily.

How much you need: An Adequate Intake (AI) for fluoride has been set. AI levels for children are as follows: ages four to eight, 1 milligram of fluoride daily, and ages nine to thirteen, 2 milligrams of fluoride daily. For teens the AI is set at 3 milligrams of fluoride daily. For adults, the guideline is 4 milligrams of fluoride daily for males and 3 milligrams daily for females. There are no increased needs during pregnancy or breast-feeding. A fluoride supplement may be prescribed by a dentist or doctor for some infants and children. See "Vitamin and Mineral Supplements for Breast-Fed Babies" in chapter 15.

Where it's mostly found: Fluoride is not widely available in food. Two significant sources are tea, especially if it's made with fluoridated water, and fish with edible bones, such as canned salmon.

The main means for obtaining fluoride is drinking and cooking with fluoridated (fluoride added) water. Many municipal water supplies are fluoridated; however, most bottled waters are not. Some types of cooking utensils, such as Teflon with its fluoride-containing polymer, also can increase the fluoride content of food. The fluoride content in food varies and is affected by the environment in which the food originated.

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