You’re pregnant, congrats! What’s the first thing you’re thinking about? It probably isn’t your fluoride intake, but you may want to consider moving it further up the list.
What is fluoride?
Fluoride is a mineral occurs naturally in some foods and in water. It’s well known in relation to dental hygiene since it plays a key role in regulating the mineralization of one’s enamel. You’ve likely seen it added to toothpaste and mouthwash. On a larger scale, many communities have made the decision to supplement their town’s water supply with fluoride for these health benefits. In the U.S., about 66% of residents are supplied with this type of water.
Fluoride and pregnancy
New research in JAMA Pediatrics (JAMA is the The Journal of the American Medical Association) studying maternal fluoride exposure in pregnant women has found that the higher the levels of fluoride are in pregnancy, the lower a child’s IQ will be later. This study specifically studied in children between ages 3 and 4. It was conducted using 512 mother-child pairs, and of these pairs, 41% lived in areas where the municipal water was supplemented with fluoride.
The average estimated fluoride intake in this study was 0.39 mg per day. The researchers found that even a 1 mg increase in fluoride exposure was associated with a 3.66 point lower IQ score in boys.
Is fluoride bad for me?
The topic of fluoride consumption tends to be a slippery slope. While it’s praised for enamel health and oral hygiene, it can be toxic in large quantities. Too much fluoride can lead to fluorosis, which are defects in tooth enamel. For this reason, it’s important to monitor your own fluoride consumption as well as that of small children, specifically under 6 years old.
If you’re pregnant, it’s especially important to be cautious of your intake. This grows complicated if you depend on supplemented town water on a daily basis. There are other concerns about tap water—here's more information about the safety of tap water when you're pregnant.
What can I do?
Given this new research, it appears to be in your best interest to purchase low or fluoride-free dental hygiene products. Additionally, try to consume filtered water when possible. If you have to use supplemented town water, consider investing in a water filter that will remove added minerals safely. And as always, work closely with a doctor when making adjustments to your lifestyle habits!