If you’re like me and you hear the word fluoride, you think of toothpaste. In good, “dentist-approved” toothpaste, fluoride has been added to strengthen enamel and protect teeth from demineralization caused by acids in the food we eat. However, when I was a small child, I was often reminded “don’t swallow the toothpaste!” I remember wondering why. Why would my parents give me something that could potentially hurt me? Many of us still ask that question today. The truth is, when small children’s teeth are forming, too much fluoride can have a detrimental effect. That’s why they didn’t want us to swallow it. And now you may be thinking about the fact that fluoride is also found in our water and is ingested daily. Is fluoride bad for you? How much is too much?
Fluoride in Your Tap Water
Fluoride is the 13th most plentiful element on Earth. It is natural and can be found in water in its natural state. So why is extra fluoride added to our drinking/tap water? The United States is one of few countries that continues to add fluoride into our water supply. It was initially added for the positive effect it had on teeth (proven to prevent tooth decay). It has been a very successful program, greatly improving our dental health. Lately, however, research has started to show that there may be some negative characteristics of fluoride in addition to the positives.
Adding fluoride to water supplies has been attributed with the ability to decline tooth decay and even reverse it. It is a natural resource, occurring naturally in water in low levels. Fluoride is perfectly harmless for people as long as they stay within certain levels and are not overexposed to it. Today, many dental products contain fluoride, like toothpaste and mouthwash.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there is a maximum level of 4 mg/L of fluoride that is safe for human intake. With fluoride levels in water, plus those in dental products, we need to be careful about getting too much. Over consumption of fluoride has been proven to cause some problems. Excessive fluoride levels have long been known to cause fluorosis, the discoloration or pitting occurring mainly in children’s teeth. And now, in adults, overexposure to fluoride has been linked to possible bone degradation and the weakening of bone density.
How to Remove it
If you are unsure if your tap water is fluoridated or are concerned about specific numbers of the fluorination, check with your water supplier. If you find that your levels are higher than you are comfortable with, there are some things you can do. A regular filtration system may not be able to remove the fluoride from your water. You may require a reverse osmosis drinking water system, ion exchange or distillation system.