Fluoride Action Network


Skeletal fluorosis is one of a range of conditions causing excessive ossification and joint ankylosis in skeletons. It is rarely considered, however, in differential diagnoses of palaeopathological lesions. This paper considers the identification of skeletal fluorosis in a skeletal sample from the island of Bahrain, Arabian Gulf, dating to ca. 250 BC-AD 250. Approximately 4% of 255 adult skeletons in the sample have hyperostosic lesions resulting in joint ankylosis primarily of the lumbar vertebrae, as well as the major joints. These lesions most frequently occur among males in the 50+ age group. Chemical analysis on a small series of bone and dental samples confirmed the presence of high levels of fluoride, while staining of the teeth is evidence of dental fluorosis. The level of dental fluorosis is comparable with a naturally occurring fluoride level in water of between 1-2 ppm. The prevalence of hyperostosic lesions, however, appears higher than expected, and two possible reasons are suggested: confusion between a diagnosis of diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis and skeletal fluorosis on partial or less severely affected skeletons; and the presence of predisposing factors for skeletal fluorosis on the island in the past.