The purpose of this paper is to discuss the major factors that determine the body burden of inorganic fluoride. Fluoride intake 25 or more years ago was determined mainly by measurement of the concentration of the ion in the drinking water supply. This is not necessarily true today because of ingestion from fluoride-containing dental products, the "halo effect", the consumption of bottled water, and the use of water purification systems in the home. Therefore, the concentration of fluoride in drinking water may not be a reliable indicator of previous intake. Under most conditions, fluoride is rapidly and extensively absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract. The rate of gastric absorption is inversely related to the pH of the gastric contents. Overall absorption is reduced by calcium and certain other cations and by elevated plasma fluoride levels. Fluoride removal from plasma occurs by calcified tissue uptake and urinary excretion. About 99% of the body burden of fluoride is associated with calcified tissues, and most of it is not exchangeable. In general, the clearance of fluoride from plasma by the skeleton is inversely related to the stage of skeletal development. Skeletal uptake, however, can be positive or negative, depending on the level of fluoride intake, hormonal status, and other factors. Dentin fluoride concentrations tend to increase throughout life and appear to be similar to those in bone. Research to determine whether dentin is a reliable biomarker for the body burden of fluoride is recommended. The renal clearance of fluoride is high compared with other halogens. It is directly related to urinary pH. Factors that acidify the urine increase the retention of fluoride and vice versa. The renal clearance of fluoride decreases and tissue levels increase when the glomerular filtration rate is depressed on a chronic basis.
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