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High exposure to fluoride can weaken tooth enamel

The mineral has several benefits when used in moderation

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Photo (c) Antonistock - Getty Images
While one recent study explored how it can be easy for kids to get too much fluoride when they brush their teeth, researchers from New York University are now explaining why all consumers should be limiting their exposure. 

Though fluoride has cavity-fighting properties, the researchers found that too much exposure to fluoride can lead to a condition known as dental fluorosis, which can lead to tooth decay. 

“The benefits of fluoride for oral health considerably outweigh the risks,” said researcher Rodrigo Lacruz. “But given how common dental fluorosis is and how poorly understood the cellular mechanisms responsible for the disease are, it is important to study this problem.” 

Protecting your teeth

To understand how fluorosis occurs, and what risks it poses to consumers, the researchers tested enamel cells from rats after exposing them to high levels of fluoride. Ultimately, they learned that too much fluoride affected the way cells responded to calcium, which is a crucial component of maintaining strong, healthy bones. 

The study revealed that higher exposure to fluoride led to decreases in calcium, which weakened teeth over time; this could eventually lead to tooth decay. Moreover, the researchers learned that high exposure to fluoride created more stress proteins throughout the enamel cell and also slowed its energy production. 

Enamel is the outer, protective layer of a tooth, and too much fluoride prevents the enamel from properly doing its job. This can lead to discoloration of the teeth, a common side effect of fluorosis, and an overall weakened enamel. 

“If your cells have to make enamel, which is heavily calcified, and due to exposure to too much fluoride the cells undergo continued stress in their capacity to handle calcium, that will be reflected in the enamel crystals as they are formed and will impact mineralization,” Lacruz said. 

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