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Vitamins, Minerals and Dietary Supplements

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What is fluoride?

Fluoride is a compound consisting of fluorine and one or more other elements. It occurs naturally in the body as calcium fluoride and is found primarily in the bones and teeth.

Why do we need it?

Small amounts of fluoride help reduce tooth decay. Studies have shown that fluoridated water supplies can reduce dental caries in children by 50 to 60%. Fluoride is also involved in the maintenance of bone structure.

How much fluoride should I take?

There is currently no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for fluoride. However, the National Academy of Sciences has deemed the following amounts to be safe and adequate in a normal diet:

  • Adult men: between 1.5-4.0 milligrams/day
  • Adult women: between 1.5-4.0 milligrams/day
  • Children aged 7-10: between 1.5-2.5 milligrams/day
  • Infants: between 0.1-1.5 milligrams/day
  • Pregnant/lactating women: 3.0 milligrams/day

What are some good sources of fluoride?

The best source of fluoride is fluoridated water, which is available in about half of all households in the United States. Foods prepared with fluoridated water will also contain fluoride. Natural fluoride is present in the ocean as sodium fluoride, so most seafood contains some form of fluoride. Tea and gelatin are also good sources.

What can happen if I don't get enough fluoride?

The most recognizable symptom of fluoride deficiency is an increased incidence of tooth decay, especially in children. Unstable bones and teeth are other signs of a lack of fluoride.

What can happen if I take too much?

Large quantities of fluoride intake can result in dental fluorosis, a condition in which tooth enamel becomes dull and unglazed with some spotting. At very high concentrations, dark stains may appear on the teeth. Although unsightly, these teeth rarely have any dental caries. Fluoride intake of 20 to 80 milligrams per day over a period of many years can cause skeletal fluorosis, which causes the bones to be chalky and brittle.


  • Recommended Dietary Allowances, 10th ed. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989.
  • Murray M. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996.
  • Stannard, et al. Fluoride levels and fluoride contamination of fruit juices. Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry 1991;16(1).
  • Susheela AK, Jethanandani P. Serum haptoglobin and C-reactive• protein in human skeletal fluorosis. Clin Biochem Dec 1994;27(6):463-8.
  • Dasarathy S, Das TK, Gupta IP, Susheela AK, Tandon RK. Gastroduodenal manifestations in patients with skeletal fluorosis. J Gastroenterol Jun 1996;31(3):333-7.
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