Esperanza Martinez Mier
Department of Cariology, Operative Dentistry and Dental Public Health
Impact of prenatal and childhood exposure to fluoride on neurodevelopment and cognitive and behavioral outcomes in children
At appropriate levels, fluoride has been well established as an effective caries-preventive agent. However, it is also known that there is a dose-dependent balance between its benefits and risks and that excessive intake can be associated with adverse effects. Until recently, dental enamel fluorosis was the only adverse effect reported for those exposed to optimal fluoride through water and salt fluoridation programs. However, in the past few years several studies have reported an association between fluoride exposure and neurodevelopment. Members of our multidisciplinary team have been at the forefront of research in this area and have conducted two NIH-funded studies in mother-child pairs from the Early Life Exposures in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants (ELEMENT) and Maternal-Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) cohorts. In those studies, prenatal exposure to fluoride in optimally fluoridated communities was associated with poorer neurodevelopmental outcomes in their children. The goal of our research agenda is, therefore, to translate the results of our studies supporting the development of evidence-based health policy to maximize the preventive effects of fluoride while minimizing its detrimental effects. We are aiming to achieve this goal by informing public health researchers and public-health decision-makers on the effects of exposure to optimal levels of fluoride during early life on overall health.