Fluoride is a beneficial element in humans as it strengthens the bones and teeth. It is found in teeth, bones, the thyroid gland and skin. The average human body contains 2.6 gms of fluoride.
Fluoride helps in formation of the teeth and protects them from decay by forming compounds with calcium and phosphorous that are stronger and less soluble than other calcium salts. These compounds remain in the human bones and are not easily absorbed into circulation to supply the need of calcium.
Women who have high fluoride intake during pregnancy are likely to have children with fewer cavities. The bones seem to be more stable and resistant to degeneration when the diet is adequate in fluoride.
Natural sources of fluoride intake include tea, meat, fish, cereals and fruit. The fluoride content in the food depends on the content of fluoride in the soil where the vegetables and fruits grow. Drinking water also contains fluoride and fluoride can also be obtained from toothpaste and other oral solutions.
An excess of fluoride can result in a condition known as dental fluorosis. This generally affects young children from the age of a few months to eight years. In the initial stages the teeth are flecked with white streaks and spots. At a more advanced level the teeth are stained black or brown and become pitted or cracked. Such a condition can only be attended to by a dentist.
Fluoride interacts with other nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D in the formation of healthy bones and strong teeth. Magnesium and calcium salt may reduce the absorption of fluoride supplements, while high calcium intake may increase fluoride excretion. Caffeine may also improve fluoride absorption.
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