Fluoride & Headaches

Fluoride tends to be synonymous with dental hygiene. Dentists recommend the use of fluoride to help build strong teeth, but too much can have a detrimental effect. Too much topical fluoride for children can lead to enamel fluorosis, which causes a chalk-like discoloration on the tooth enamel. Consumption of too much fluoride leads to fluoride toxicity, which can cause adverse effects such as headaches.


Fluoride comes from fluorine, which is a natural element found in water and in the air. Fluoride is present in all water, and some communities add it to their water supply. It works by stopping and reversing tooth decay, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. It helps keep tooth enamel strong by preventing the loss of minerals. Use of fluoride decreases the risk of cavities and helps maintain oral health.


There are many types of headaches and as many causes. The University of Maryland Medical Center defines a headache as a pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck. The most common cause is by tight, contracted muscles in the shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. Headaches can be caused by lack of sleep, hunger, alcohol, caffeine, monosodium glutamate or medications. An imbalance of nutrients, from vitamins or minerals, can upset the body’s delicate system.


Fluoride is found in toothpaste, mouthwashes and water supplies. It's added to community water to adjust the natural fluoride concentration levels to the recommended amount for optimal dental health, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. The amount is approximately one part per million or 1mg/L. Fluoridated water reaches 62 percent of the U.S. population, supplying more than 144 million people.


Fluoride toxicity can occur in doses as little as .1mg/kg to .3mg/kg, according to the Fluoride Action Network website. Note that 1l equals .96kg. Symptoms of fluoride toxicity can include gastrointestinal pain, nausea, vomiting and headaches. Toxicity is more common in young children due to their low body weights and ingestion of toothpaste combined with ingestion of fluoridated water. A public health report in 1997, a 1994 study in the New England Journal of Medicine and a 1988 study in the American Journal of Public Health reported incidents of fluoride toxicity with headache as a complaint in 41 percent, 11 percent and 49 percent respectively.


Fluoridated water is considered safe and effective, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. The Fluoride Action Network website states that the lethal dose of fluoride is 5mg/kg, well below the amount added to water. Children are more susceptible and their dental hygiene should be monitored.