The effects of fluoride at concentrations of 2.0 and 4.5 mM in drinking water on growth rate, vitamin D, water and mineral metabolism, bone histomorphometry, and osteoinduction of demineralized allogenic bone matrix (DABM) were compared in the rat. Whereas fluoride did not influence fluid intake or growth rate at the lower concentration, it increased fluid intake and inhibited growth rate at the higher concentration. Fluoride produced dose-related increases in serum fluoride and alkaline phosphatase but did not alter serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D or 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Serum calcium and phosphate were reduced by fluoride at concentrations of 2.0 mM but not 4.5 mM. Cancellous bone fractional area was increased by fluoride at 2.0 mM and was reduced by fluoride at 4.5 mM. Fluoride had no effect on cancellous bone surface length or the percentage surface lined by osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Fluoride increased medullary area and decreased the endosteal bone formation rate. Fluoride increased periosteal bone formation and apposition rates at concentrations of 2.0 mM but not 4.5 mM. Fluoride inhibited mineralization in DABM implants, and at the higher concentration, fluoride increased the formation of new bone matrix. These results indicate that in the rat, fluoride increases cortical and trabecular bone at therapeutic doses and reduces trabecular bone at toxic doses. The serum concentration of fluoride at therapeutic doses in the rat is similar to that in patients with osteoporosis who are on treatment with fluoride. In the rat, there is a narrow range between toxic and therapeutic doses.