The most frequently reported adverse effect of fluoridation is the aesthetic concern of dental fluorosis, which is a change in the mineral structure of the teeth that results in yellowing or browning. Dental fluorosis is a concern that affects primarily children. Exposure to fluoride during the development of teeth may result in a yellowing or browning of teeth.
When added in small amounts, less than 0.5 milligrams per liter, fluoride may be beneficial in the prevention of dental caries; however, it may be toxic and cause dental fluorosis at levels greater than1.5 milligrams per liter. It is estimated that about 200 million people throughout 25 different countries experience fluorosis. According to the World Health Organization, about 40 percent of teenagers show some sign of dental fluorosis, most commonly discoloring of the teeth.
Severe fluorosis may occur from water that contains well above the recommended amount of fluoride. It is a condition that affects the structure of bones, ligaments, and muscles. This condition rarely occurs in industrialized nations, but involves arthritis-like symptoms, changes in bone structure, and muscle wasting.
If a large amount of fluoride is ingested in a short period of time, side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain may occur.
It was previously believed that infants required fluoridated formula; however, recently the Institute of Medicine began recommending no more than 10 micrograms of fluoride for infants daily. This miniscule amount may be found in a mother's breast milk. Harvard University also recently warned that fluoride toxicity may target the developing brain in infants. Further research is warranted.
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