Fluoride Action Network



There is an increased interest in identifying practical and accurate biomarkers for fluoride exposure. Due to the narrow ‘dose-gap’ between the benefit of caries reduction and the risk of dental fluorosis, monitoring of fluoride exposure is vital when introducing any fluoridation programme for the prevention of dental caries. This scoping review aimed to ascertain the nature and extent of the available evidence on how spot urine and nail clippings are used to measure fluoride intake/exposure, by using a unique approach of mapping the studies according to population, setting, type of study design, methodology and analytical approach in community prevention programmes.


Multiple relevant databases were searched up to July 2021 for any study designs, including randomised controlled studies, quasi-experimental studies, surveys, retrospective and prospective cohort studies, case studies, phenomenological studies, and expert opinions.


The search retrieved 9,222 studies of which 155 met the inclusion criteria. A high proportion of the studies (25.2%) originated from Latin America and the Caribbean continent subregion. However, per country, China recorded the highest number, followed by India and Mexico. The majority (62.6%) employed a cross-sectional study design, and 65.8% combined participants from different age groups. Of the included studies, 82.6% used spot urine samples as a biomarker for assessing fluoride intake/exposure. Water fluoride concentration was reported in 66.5% of the studies with 46.6% of all included studies reporting a water fluoride concentration of >?1.2 mg/L. The methods used in assessing oral hygiene and dietary intake were not reported in 72.3% and 71.0% of the included studies, respectively. Only 35.5% of the included studies assessed the relationship between fluoride exposure and excretion.


This review revealed a large variability in the way in which spot urine samples and/or nail clippings are used to measure fluoride exposure in different settings and situations. Particularly, there are inconsistencies in the methodologies and the analytical approaches used in assessing fluoride exposure. Therefore, there is a need for more rigorous primary research studies using standardised approaches to determine the suitability of spot urine samples and nail clipping as biomarkers for monitoring fluoride exposure.

*Original full-text article online at: https://bmcoralhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12903-022-02615-2