Diet - fluoride

Alternative names 
Fluoride in diet

Fluoride occurs naturally in the body as calcium fluoride, found primarily in the bones and teeth.

Small amounts of fluoride help reduce Tooth decay. Fluoridation of water supplies helped reduce dental caries (cavities) in children by 50-60%. Fluorides are also involved in the maintenance of bone structure. Low doses of fluoride salts can sometimes be used, under the supervision of a doctor, for the treatment of conditions that cause accelerated bone loss, such as menopause and prolonged immobility.

Food Sources
Fluoridated water and food prepared in that type of water will contain fluoride. Natural fluoride is present in the ocean as sodium fluoride, so most seafood contains some form of fluoride. Tea and gelatin also contain fluoride.

Side Effects

Fluoride deficiency may appear in the form of increased cavities and unstable bones and teeth.

When there is a high amount of fluoride in the drinking water, a problem called chronic dental fluorosis can occur. The tooth enamel becomes dull and unglazed with some pitting (mottled enamel). At very high concentrations (over 2.5 parts per million) dark brown stains appear on the teeth. Although unsightly, these teeth rarely have any cavities.

In addition, high fluoride intake (20-80 milligrams per day) over a period of many years can cause skeletal fluorosis, which causes the bones to be chalky and brittle.


There are no specific recommended dietary allowances for fluoride. Here are the estimated safe and adequate intake guidelines:

  • infants       o 0 to 6 months - 0.1 to 0.5 milligrams       o 6 months to 1 year - 0.2 to 1.0 milligrams  
  • children       o 1 to 3 years - 0.5 to 1.5 milligrams       o 4 to 6 years - 1.0 to 2.5 milligrams       o 7 to 10 years - 1.5 to 2.5 milligrams  
  • adolescents (11+ years) - 1.5 to 2.5 milligrams  
  • adults - 1.5 to 4.0 milligrams


Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 4, 2012
by Janet G. Derge, M.D.

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