While most know that fluoridated toothpaste improves oral health, fluoride in drinking water can impact fertility. Research reveals that consumption of fluoridated community water above recommended levels and for long periods can be detrimental if you are planning a pregnancy.
Fluoride exposure from drinking water, alone or in conjunction with fluoride exposure from other sources, can harm fertility.
High fluoride exposure is linked to abnormal sex hormone levels, including estrogen and testosterone. Research confirms that high fluoride causes a change in pregnancy-related hormones too.
Excess fluoride also causes changes in sperm structure and functions in males and reduces the fertility of men.
When a pregnant person is exposed to high fluoride levels, it can affect the newborn's mental abilities and IQ.
A doctor is the best person to guide you on fluoride levels and ways to avoid excess consumption.
It can even impact developing fetuses. Ongoing research is exploring the exact way in which fluoride affects fertility. Read on to learn the possible mechanisms and ways fluoride can affect male and female reproductive health.
Fluoride & reproductive health – what is the link?
Raising the scientific community's concerns globally, high fluoride levels are now considered a key risk factor for infertility-related issues. Fluoride messes with the endocrine and reproductive hormones, ultimately leading to infertility. Some impacts include:
- Thyroid issues. Long-term consumption of high-fluoride water has the potential to inhibit thyroid gland activity. Thyroid hormone shortage can interfere with the release of an egg from the ovary (ovulation), compromising fertility. It can further reduce the chances of becoming pregnant and carrying a child to term.
- Menstrual dysregulation. According to recent studies, high fluoride exposure is connected with elevated follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) levels. These hormones are responsible for the development of numerous ovarian follicles, each of which contains one egg. LH regulates the menstrual period; it also causes an egg to be released from the ovary.
- Sex hormone changes. Excess fluoride levels are also linked to reduced estrogen and testosterone levels. Estrogen (female hormone) and testosterone (male hormone) are the essential hormones in charge of pregnancy, puberty, menstruation, menopause, sex desire, sperm production, and other fertility functions. Changes in these hormones can impair the fertility cycle.
- Hormone ratios. Hormone ratios undergo drastic changes with a rise in fluoride levels. Androgen-to-estrogen ratios (A/E) and estrogen receptor-to-androgen receptor ratios (ER/AR) are altered significantly. High androgen is a significant cause of infertility in women of childbearing age. Increased estrogen in men leads to low sperm numbers and poor sperm quality, affecting fertility.
Effects of fluoride on fertility
There are many ways that fluoride can impact fertility and pregnancy:
- Sperm changes. Fluoride exposure has the most substantial effects on male reproduction, including alterations in sperm's structure and normal functioning, disturbance of spermatogenesis, and instability of various hormone systems.
- Pregnancy risks. Pregnant women who have high fluoride exposure have an increased risk of miscarriage and stillbirth due to anemia.
- Fetal development. Interesting studies reveal that the IQ scores of babies born to mothers exposed to greater fluoride levels during pregnancy are lower than those born to mothers with lower fluoride levels. A 1-mg daily increase in fluoride consumption during pregnancy was linked to a 3.66-point lower IQ score. This study suggests that fluoride can affect brain development.
- Low birth weight. Another study conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey noted that women exposed to increased levels of water fluoride were 1.5 times more likely to give birth to a low birth weight infant and 3.5 times more likely to give birth to a very low birth weight infant. The study also confirmed that when fluoride reaches the fetus through the umbilical cord and placenta.
Using fluoride toothpaste when pregnant
According to the American Dental Association, fluoride is a safe and reliable technique to prevent cavities for everyone, including pregnant women. They advise using fluoride toothpaste and consuming fluoridated water. However, it is recommended to consult a doctor on how much fluoride you can consume during pregnancy.
As a tip, do not swallow toothpaste. Rinse and spit the excess after brushing.
How much fluoride is good for health?
Naturally occurring fluoride levels in the range of 0.7–1 mg/L of drinking water are considered safe. The WHO recommends a maximum upper limit of 1.5 mg/L.
Recent studies highlight that fluoride may harm human cells, lower testosterone levels, lower fertility rates, and change reproductive hormones. However, the amount of fluoride that can lead to these is yet to be explored. On a standard basis, WHO recommends that the total daily fluoride exposure be around 0.6 per adult per day mg/adult/day in an area where fluoride is not added to the drinking water and 2 mg per adult per day in a place where fluoride is added to the drinking water.
It's good to know whether the water in your area has been fluoridated, and its levels. Consult your doctor to understand if the fluoride levels can harm your health.
- Medical and Clinical Reviews. Fluoride Fact on Human Health and Health Problems: A Review.
- World Health Organization. Fluoride in Drinking-water.
- Journal of Clinical Investigation. Impact of estrogens in males and androgens in females.
- Environmental Health. Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: An updated review.
- International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. Association between Water Fluoride Levels and Low Birth Weight: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2013–2016.
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- Environmental Advances. Maternal fluoride exposure, fertility and birth outcomes: The MIREC cohort.