Throughout most of our lives, we hear dentists tell us to use fluoride rinses and to drink tap water because the fluoride in it protects our teeth. When we go to the dentist, at our bi-annual cleanings, we often get a fluoride treatment for this reason. The hygienist also often recommends we purchase a fluoride rinse, so that we get extra protection from cavities and decay. Sounds pretty routine, right? But here’s the shocker: despite what we’ve been told for most of our lives, what many of us don’t realize is that fluoride can actually be quite detrimental to our health, for everyone, especially seniors and children.
Before I begin telling you why, I want to emphasize the importance of this message. As an Elder Law attorney, I typically focus my newsletter and blog on topics related to my practice, such as Medicaid Planning, Estate Planning, and Special Needs Planning. In some instances, when I see something that I believe is vitally important for our readers to know, I feel I must cover it. This is one of those instances. However, I am of course neither a doctor nor a scientist, so please understand that this article is not medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition.
How Fluoride May Damage Your Bones
As you know, many of us experience loss of bone mass and density as we age. And, of course, we want to do what we can to make our bones stronger, not weaker. However, if you are ingesting fluoridated water or anything with fluoride in it, you could be doing more damage to your bones than you know. According to a National Institute of Health (NIH) study, fluoride exposure alters the quality of bone tissue, and may increase the rate of bone fracture.
According to the World Health Organization, excess fluoride intake causes a condition known as skeletal fluorosis, which has symptoms that are difficult to distinguish from arthritis in its early stages. At first, sufferers may experience:
•Reduced appetite and weight loss
The second clinical stage of skeletal fluorosis is characterized by:
•Calcification of tendons, or ligaments in the ribs and pelvis;
•Osteoporosis in the long bones;
•Bony spurs may that appear on limb bones, especially around your knee, elbow, and on the surface of tibia and ulna;
In advanced skeletal fluorosis (also called crippling skeletal fluorosis), your extremities become weak and moving your joints becomes difficult, and your vertebrae partially fuse together, effectively crippling you.
Skeletal fluorosis was first identified in detail in a 2006 report by the National Research Council (NRC) as an adverse effect that needed to be considered by the EPA in establishing maximum safe levels of fluoride in drinking water. Fluoride is one of the drinking water contaminants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because it can occur at toxic levels. But so far, the EPA has done no serious analysis of the potential for skeletal fluorosis in the U.S.
Fluoride and Bone Fractures
Dr. Paul Connett is one of the founders of the Fluoride Action Network (FAN), an organization that seeks to broaden awareness about the toxicity of fluoride compounds among citizens, scientists, and policymakers. Dr. Connett is graduate of Cambridge University who holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College and taught chemistry and toxicology for 23 years at St. Lawrence University in NY. According to Dr. Connett, there are at least 50 reasons to oppose fluoridation of water. According to FAN:
Fluoride Can Hurt Your Grandchildren, As Well
Dental proponents of fluoride typically ignore the side effects of it, and focus solely on how it helps protect teeth. What dentists don’t tell us is that fluoride that is ingested provides little to no preventative protection against tooth decay.
In children, too much fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, or a pocking, pitting, and discoloration of teeth due to too much exposure to fluoride (affecting 40% of U.S. children) and the risk to bone health can also start early.
Other Issues Caused by Fluoride
If you think the bone and teeth problems are all that occur, think again. Excess fluoride consumption is so harmful that it’s been proven to cause serious health issues, including damage to your kidneys, thyroid, pineal gland, and even your brain. Here’s a list:
•Lowered thyroid function;
•Impaired mental development, lowered IQ, and forgetfulness;
•Hyperactivity and/or lethargy;
•Disrupted immune system.
Keep in mind that you have a heightened risk of developing problems from even mild exposure to fluoride, if you:
•are deficient in calcium, magnesium, and/or vitamin C;
•have cardiovascular problems;
•have kidney problems.
How Much Fluoride is Too Much?
Unfortunately, most people — especially if they’re drinking fluoridated water on a daily basis — have constant exposure to fluoride. In other words, most of the people who drink fluoridated water are taking more fluoride into their bones than what is being removed, so the level of fluoride in their bones increases steadily over time.
No sufficiently large study has ever been conducted in the U.S. to determine a safe amount of fluoride intake. However, a British study looked at a biomarker for fluoride intake, which is the amount of fluoride excreted over 24 hours in urine. It found that several percent of adults were likely already exceeding an intake of 10 mg/day. The situation may actually be far worse in the U.S., since in Britain, only 10% of the population has fluoridated water, whereas in the U.S. close to 70% does. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the level of fluoride in drinking water be set at the lowest end of the prior optimal range (established way back in 1962) to prevent tooth decay.
Removing Fluoride from Your Water
Please note that you can remove about 80% of the fluoride from your drinking water using a reverse osmosis (RO) filter. Natural spring water may contain fluoride, but is probably your best bet if you decide you want to avoid fluoride to the greatest extent possible.
You are also exposed to fluoride from many sources other than the obvious lineup of toothpastes and mouth rinses. Far less obvious sources of fluoride, which experts recommend avoiding, if possible, include:
• Soy baby formulas
So, you might want to reconsider drinking fluoridated tap water and other products made with fluoridated water, and you may want to do what you can to maintain bone health. For example, try to get enough vitamin D, exercise, don’t smoke, and limit alcohol intake.
Fluoride Should NOT Be Ignored
Should you completely avoid ingestion of fluoride? I’m not a doctor or a dentist or a scientist, so I can’t make that kind of recommendation, but I suggest you do your own research and reach your own conclusion.
Some More Sources of Research Concluding that Fluoride is Harmful:
Some Sources Concluding that Fluoride is Not Harmful:
At the Farr Law Firm, we care about our client’s health, quality of life, and well-being. Remember, part of taking care of yourself is planning for your future and for your loved ones. If you have not done your own Incapacity Planning or Estate Planning, or if you are caring for a loved one who is beginning to need more care than you can handle, please contact us as soon as possible to make an appointment for a no-cost initial consultation:
Fairfax Elder Law: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Elder Law: 540-479-1435
Rockville Elder Law: 301-519-8041
DC Elder Law: 202-587-2797