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Fluoride Allergy: Myth or Reality?

It's possible to have a fluoride allergy but it is incredibly rare because fluoride is actually present in a lot of common foods (potatoes, tea, coffee, etc). Therefore it is very unlikely for your fluoride toothpaste or fluoridated tap water to be causing you harm.


Fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash
Fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash

Table of contents:


Is it possible to be allergic to fluoride?

It is possible to be allergic to fluoride because you can develop an allergy to virtually anything in this world. However the chances of you having one are extremely rare.


Of course, the anti-fluoride websites truthaboutfluoride and fluoridealert all reference a case study by Dr. George Waldbott who was a well known activist against water fluoridation. His claims and statements are biased against fluoride so we can't make our verdict based on his information alone.


We also tried searching through the reputable well known public sites such as CDC, FDA, and NHS but they all yielded zero results about fluoride allergies.


Research studies about possible allergic reactions

There was no information about potential allergic reactions to fluoride at least according to major government organizations. However google scholar did yield some results.


A study by West China Journal of Stomatology where they documented a case report about an allergy to sodium fluoride glycerin. They did note that it was extremely rare but these were the symptoms:

  • Mucosal edema with a large number of red miliary granules.

  • Swallowing difficulties but no breathing difficulties.

  • Large ulcers of oral mucosa.


A study by the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology documented how a 55 year old woman was allergic to stannous fluoride toothpaste. She developed cheilitis and urticaria around her mouth. However, what they found out was that she was actually allergic to the stannous and not specifically the "fluoride".


periodic table of elements
Credit: Double Sharp

Stannous fluoride (SnF2) is basically fluoride mixed with tin to stabilize it so the woman was actually allergic to the metal element Sn and not the F. All fluorides in toothpaste and water are usually mixed and stabilized with some other elements. There was one study that found an allergic reaction to amine fluoride in toothpaste, which isn't very common in the US.


In regards to toothpastes, there was one study which examined allergies to toothpaste ingredients. They searched through all case studies from 1900-2016 and found 47 cases of 60 people who were allergic to toothpaste. Essentially over the course of 116 years, only 60 people were found to have developed a reaction...


Last but not least, we found one study which reported that two individuals developed contact stomatitis fluoride varnish. Fluoride varnish is just a highly concentrated version of sodium fluoride which you find in toothpaste.


 

Symptoms of fluoride allergy

Overall it does seem like it is possible to be allergic to fluoride but it's extremely rare. Of the few documented cases of fluoride allergy, it was always fluorine mixed with other substances that caused the reaction. There is a good chance that the individual could've been allergic to some of the other ingredients in the mix.


Fluoride allergy symptoms:

  • Vomiting

  • Abdominal pain

  • Headaches

  • Scotomata

  • Personality changes

  • Muscular weakness

  • Painful numbness in extremities

  • Joint Pain

  • Migraine headaches

  • Dry mouth

  • Oral ulcers

  • Convulsions

  • Mental deterioration

  • Colitis

  • Pelvic hemorrhage

  • Urticaria

  • Nasal congestion

  • Skin rashes

  • Epigastric distress

  • Hematemesis


All of the alleged symptoms were provided by the American Academy of Allergies but they conclusively denied that it could be possible from water fluoridation. Their statement was "there is no evidence of allergy or intolerance to fluorides as used in the fluoridation of community water supplies".


 

How can I tell if I'm allergic to fluoride?

In case you were wondering if you could be allergic to fluoride it is actually quite easy to tell. Fluoride isn't just present in our toothpastes and drinking water because a lot of foods naturally have them.


According to Harvard University, foods that are high in fluoride are:

  • Black tea

  • Coffee

  • Potatoes

  • Oatmeal

  • Raisins

  • Canned shellfish like blue crabs or shrimps


We fact checked Harvard just to make sure and indeed black tea is very high in fluoride. In fact, studies have found that those who drink a lot of black tea don't even need their water to be fluoridated. If they had fluoridated water that would actually put them at risk of taking in too much fluoride.


Yamamoto black tea bag
Yamamoto black tea bag

Last but not least, America's favorite beverage coffee is also high in fluoride. It doesn't have as much as the black tea but it still has a fair amount. Studies have shown that different coffee beans and brewing methods also affected the fluoride quantity in them.


Therefore if you routinely drink coffee or tea and haven't had a reaction yet, chances are that you do not have an allergy to it. Also if you eat potatoes such as french fries, chips, or mashed ones you also don't have an allergy. But like we said... it is an extremely rare allergy.


Fluoride allergy test

We tried to look for a laboratory test that you could use to test for a fluoride allergy and we couldn't actually find one. It was strange but all we can find are blood tests that test for exposure to fluoride or if fluoride is present in your water supply.


There wasn't any information about a test to see if you were allergic to just fluoride! Perhaps it is not popular or there is no need for one? We're not sure.


 

Takeaway

So can you have an allergy to fluoride? Potentially yes but it is extremely rare for an individual to have it. First of all, the American Academy of Allergies denies it and we can't find any information about it from the CDC or FDA. We also can't find any available fluoride allergy tests for purchase.


However we did find some rare case studies about potential fluoride allergies. But, we think these case studies may not be 100% related to pure fluoride. It could be other ingredients in the product which triggered the allergic reaction. That may explain why the massive toothpaste allergy study only found 60 cases over the course of 116 years.


Overall, just based on common sense and logic we would say it is extremely unlikely for a person to be allergic to fluoride. You just have to take into consideration that everyone drinks either tea or coffee around the world and those are high in fluoride. Then there is also the fact that if you were allergic to fluoride, you can't eat french fries...


We really haven't met too many of those people... So yeah, if you're able to consume tea, coffee, or potatoes you're most likely not allergic to fluoride. There really is no excuse for you to avoid all of the wonderful benefits that fluoride can provide for your teeth!


As per our dentists in Long Island City, fluoride is an important part of preventative dentistry.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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