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Sodium Fluoride Side Effects

author image A.M. Tacon
A.M. Tacon is an associate professor of health at Texas Tech University. Her research interests include psychosocial factors in cancer, complementary therapies and stress reduction in individuals with cancer. Dr. Tacon runs mindfulness-based stress reduction programs for women with breast cancer, which is based on various forms of mindfulness meditation.

Sodium fluoride, a substance derived from fluorine, is a compound added to drinking water and most toothpastes in the United States since the 1940s to prevent tooth decay. However, Colorado State University Extension states that only two-thirds of the U.S. population is served drinking water with optimal levels of fluoride. Fluoride ingestion, however, has been linked to multiple side effects, which have initiated calls from organizations such as the Fluoride Action Network to remove fluoride from the public water system.

Teeth Staining and Fluorosis

Fluoride concentrations of 1.0 mg per liter or greater, according to Colorado State University Extension, reduce the incidence of dental cavities, while concentrations of more than 2.0 mg per liter may produce side effects. Specifically, stained teeth enamel may result and cause an irreversible condition known as dental fluorosis, states the Fluoride Action Network. Fluorosis occurs when a child receives too much fluoride during the period of tooth enamel development between the ages of 1 to 4 years. Severe fluorosis is characterized by striking brown and black color of the teeth with a pitting or cracking appearance of the teeth. An additional concern is that fluoride is found commonly in foods, beverages and toothpastes, which, combined with public fluorination, increases the risk of fluorosis. Consequently, fluoride supplements should be prescribed only for children who live in places of non-fluorinated public water systems, states the American Dental Association. If you have a child whose age fits with the critical period, and teeth staining starts to appear, contact your dentist so your child's teeth can be evaluated.

Allergic Reaction

Another possible side effect of sodium fluoride, depending upon the individual, is that of an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction, according to Drugs.com, may include hives, a rash and itching; swelling of your lips, mouth, tongue, throat and face; and difficulty in breathing. Get to an emergency room or call for an ambulance immediately if you begin experiencing any of these symptoms.

General Side Effects

Another adverse, yet less serious, side effect of sodium fluoride that you may experience is a general upset stomach, according to Drugs.com. This adverse reaction may be accompanied by headaches as well as generalized weakness. If you start experiencing such general effects that do not subside, contact your doctor so that your symptoms can be evaluated.


Sodium fluoride in drinking water has been associated with the development of osteosarcoma, according to the American Cancer Society. Osteosarcoma is a cancer of the bones. This disease occurs when fluoride accumulates where bone growth is occurring. Sodium fluoride in the water may accelerate cell growth, and possibly increase the development of cancerous cells. However, more studies are needed to fully explore this potential side effect.

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