OBJECTIVES: Health risks due to chronic exposure to highly fluoridated groundwater could be underestimated because fluoride might not only influence the teeth in an aesthetic manner but also seems to led to dentoalveolar structure changes. Therefore, we studied the tooth and alveolar bone structures of Dorper sheep chronically exposed to very highly fluoridated and low calcium groundwater in the Kalahari Desert in comparison to controls consuming groundwater with low fluoride and normal calcium levels within the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended range.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Two flocks of Dorper ewes in Namibia were studied. Chemical analyses of water, blood and urine were performed. Mineralized tissue investigations included radiography, HR-pQCT analyses, histomorphometry, energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction-analyses.
RESULTS: Fluoride levels were significantly elevated in water, blood and urine samples in the Kalahari group compared to the low fluoride control samples. In addition to high fluoride, low calcium levels were detected in the Kalahari water. Tooth height and mandibular bone quality were significantly decreased in sheep, exposed to very high levels of fluoride and low levels of calcium in drinking water. Particularly, bone volume and cortical thickness of the mandibular bone were significantly reduced in these sheep.
CONCLUSIONS: The current study suggests that chronic environmental fluoride exposure with levels above the recommended limits in combination with low calcium uptake can cause significant attrition of teeth and a significant impaired mandibular bone quality.
CLINICAL RELEVANCE: In the presence of high fluoride and low calcium-associated dental changes, deterioration of the mandibular bone and a potential alveolar bone loss needs to be considered regardless whether other signs of systemic skeletal fluorosis are observed or not.