FLUORIDE in small amounts unquestionably strengthens tooth defenses against dental caries. It cannot be listed literally as an element essential to life, but it is now established beyond reasonable doubt that optimal quantities of fluorides are desirable and beneficial in improving tooth health. When fluoride is naturally present in drinking water, is added mechanically, or more rarely, is ingested in more than minimal amounts in food, tooth decay diminishes.
A knowledge of fluoride metabolism provides some understanding of the possible role of fluoride in tooth health, as well as some reassurance as to the safety of fluoridated water.
Five aspects of the metabolic process will be discussed; absorption, distribution, excretion, deposition, and mobilization. No attention will be devoted to organic fluorides, such as carbon compounds containing fluorine.
In fluoride metabolism, only the ion is important in the body. Compounds do not produce typical fluoride effects unless they release