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What are some facts about fluoride?

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Quick Answer

Fluoride is an abundant, natural element that is also synthesized in laboratories and added to drinking water, toothpaste and mouthwash to prevent tooth decay. It is also taken orally to treat osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease, but as of 2015, more evidence is needed to confirm its effectiveness for these uses. Fluoride protects teeth from the acid produced by mouth bacteria that leads to demineralization and remineralizes areas of tooth decay when the mineral accumulates in the enamel.

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Full Answer

Medical professional recommend that adults and children consume fluoride daily to prevent tooth decay. The mineral also may strengthen children's developing permanent teeth against decay.

Excessive consumption of fluoride can cause dental fluorosis, which causes tooth discoloration and rough enamel, and skeletal fluorosis, which damages bones, joints and the thyroid gland. A 2012 study found that fluoride may lower children's IQ.

Some groups oppose the fluoridation of water, citing the health concerns against fluoride and claiming that there is insufficient evidence showing that it prevents tooth decay. Additionally, critics charge that it is not possible to control how much of the mineral people receive. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommended that fluoridation levels in public water be maintained at the lower end of the optimal range to prevent fluorosis in children.

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