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Fluoride Excess


Larry E. Johnson

, MD, PhD, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Last full review/revision Jun 2020| Content last modified Jun 2020
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Consuming excess fluoride, most commonly in drinking water, can cause fluorosis, which affects the teeth and bones.

In the body, most fluoride is contained in bones and teeth. Fluoride is necessary for the formation and health of bones and teeth.

(See also Overview of Minerals.)

People who live in areas where the drinking water has a naturally high fluoride level may consume too much fluoride—causing a condition called fluorosis. Fluoride accumulates in teeth, particularly permanent teeth. Chalky white, irregular patches appear on the surface of the tooth enamel. The patches become stained yellow or brown, causing the enamel to appear mottled. The teeth may also become pitted. These defects appear to affect appearance only and may even make the enamel more resistant to cavities.

Fluoride also accumulates in bones. Rarely, consuming too much fluoride for a long time results in dense but weak bones, abnormal bone growths (spurs) on the spine, and crippling due to calcium accumulation (calcification) in ligaments.

The diagnosis of fluoride excess is based on symptoms.

Treatment of fluoride excess involves reducing fluoride consumption. For example, if people live in areas with high fluoride levels in the water, they should not drink fluoridated water or take fluoride supplements. Children should always be instructed not to swallow fluoridated toothpaste.

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