According to a December 2005 article published in the "Journal of the American Dental Association," fluoride is recognized as "nature's cavity fighter" and is primarily obtained in two forms, topical and systemic. Topical fluorides are commonly found in products such as toothpaste and mouthwash. Systemic fluorides are those that are ingested and may include tablets or lozenges. Found mostly in fluoridated tap water, which is both topical and systemic, adequate amounts of fluoride help to maintain dental health.
Sources of Fluoride
Food products that either resided in fluoridated water or were prepared using fluoridated water contain fluoride The ocean is a source of fluoride, so seafood products may also contain fragments of fluoride. The Food and Nutrition Encyclopedia, Volume I, notes that seafood and tea are among the richest sources of fluoride. Fluoride also occurs naturally in the body in the form of calcium fluoride and is found in the bones and teeth. Pregnant women with an adequate intake of fluoride will also transfer small amounts of fluoride to nursing children through breast milk. Furthermore, The American Dental Association has advocated for fluoride-enhanced community water for more than 50 years as a preventative measure against tooth decay. Your local water company can tell you how much fluoride is in your water. The U.S. Public Health Service recommends a range of 0.7 to 1.2 parts per million.
Purpose of Fluoride
According to the American Dental Association, appropriate amounts of fluoride serve to prevent tooth decay. Consumption of certain food products, especially those that are rich in sugar content, enables bacterial growth on the teeth. This may lead to damage on the tooth enamel. Fluoride stimulates the re-mineralization of the enamel; thereby preventing the formation of cavities.
Fluoride Intake Recommendations
The Institute of Medicine recommends that infants 0 to 6 months require a daily fluoride allowance of 0.01 mg, while those 7 to 12 months require 0.5 mg. Children between 1 to 3 years of age, 4 to 8 years of age and 9 to 13 years of age need 0.7 mg, 1.0 mg and 2.0 mg, respectively. Males 14 to 18 years of age require 3.0 mg while adult males are recommended an allowance of 4.0 mg. Females over 14 years of age -- including female adults who are either pregnant or lactating, need 3.0 mg per day. Drinking fluoridated water will meet these requirements.
While fluoride is commonly found in tap water, not all drinking waters contain fluoride. Communities that rely on well water may not receive sufficient amounts of fluoride, if any at all, according to Medline Plus. Fluoride supplements may help to remedy this problem. However, care must be taken to not ingest too much fluoride as this may result in mottling of the teeth. For this reason, the American Dental Association recommends avoiding toothpaste with fluoride for children less than 2 years of age.