Fluoride, another of the trace minerals, is also one of the more controversial minerals.
Much of a long running debate surrounding fluoride has to do with whether the benefits of adding fluoride to a municipal drinking water supply outweigh any potential adverse consequences. As always, there are those who feel the consequences are negligible and there are those who feel that any amount added, and thereby forced upon them by "the government" is too much.
Although fluoride is not generally considered an essential mineral, that is, one "essential" to good health, it certainly plays a significant role in keeping teeth and bones healthy and strong. Fluoride specifically helps in the fight against tooth decay. That is why it's listed as an ingredient in many brands of tooth paste. Teeth need a way to fight tooth decay and fluoride is the best weapon.
As acid slowly eats through a tooth's enamel, the tooth's protective coating decreases, and, eventually, breached. This allows harmful bacteria to grow and thrive. This situation can ultimately cause cavities to develop. The fluoride a person gets by regularly brushing the teeth helps strengthen dental enamel and make teeth better able to resist these acids.
Fluoride also plays a role in the process of restoring minerals that have been lost due to use or elimination. Remineralization, as it is sometimes called, is especially important for bone healh. In the case of the bones, fluoride actually helps prevent mineral loss from occurring in the first place. Fluoride helps bones hold on to minerals more effectively. It is believed that this function plays a big role in protecting a person against the onset of osteoporosis.
No recommended daily intake has yet been established for fluoride. However, there is a general consensus that 1.5 mg/day for adults and no more than 2.5 mg/day for children is adequate.
Sources of Fluoride
The mineral fluoride is not available from many foods. That's the major reason for adding it to toothpaste and many drinking water supplies. Using fluoridated water for cooking is another way to get this mineral inside the body. Drinking brewed tea that has been made with fluoridated water is another option. Canned fish (including their edible bones) such as salmon is also a good source. A dentist will usually prescribe additional fluoride treatments, especially for children, to further help protect teeth from decay.
Too much fluoride, especially in children, can lead to a condition called dental fluorosis, or a discoloration of the teeth. The main symptom of this condition is teeth that start to turn yellow. Too much fluoride, normally important to the health and structure of bones and teeth, can also cause bones and teeth to become brittle. Brittle bones are more likely to develop fractures. Excessive levels of fluoride over time can also lead to hyperthyroidism, a condition in which the body produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones.
While many people simply do not want the government forcing them to take this mineral into their bodies, much of the debate over adding fluoride to the water supply revolves around the potential risks associated with over-consumption of this mineral.
Symptoms of Fluoride Deficiency
While not as common as it once might have been, flouride deficiency does still exist. The most obvious sign that a person is not getting enough fluoride is the appearance of dental carries, better known as cavities and weakened tooth enamel. Brittle bones which generally are caused by bone demineralization are also a symptom of insufficient fluoride. This situation can lead to a higher likelihood of developing bone fractures and possibly even osteoporosis.
Because of the ease of getting fluoride in today's society, it is fairly common for even the best daily multivitamin not to contain any of this valuable dietary mineral.