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Fluoride Effects: The Two Faces of Janus
The behavior of fluoride ions in the human organism is a classic example of double-edged sword. On the one hand the daily supplementation with fluoride is undoubtedly an important preventing factor in protecting teeth from caries, and, as an important mitogenic stimulus for osteoblasts, it may enhance mineral deposition in bone, but on the other hand fluoride, above a threshold concentration, has been demonstrated to be toxic. We present here a brief review of fluoride metabolism and exposure, its use in caries prevention and its effects on bone, followed by an updating about the main hypotheses concerning its mechanism of action and toxicity. The effects of fluoride have been related mainly to its ability to evoke the activation of G proteins and the inhibition of phosphotyrosine phosphatases, leading to an intracellular increase of tyrosine phosphorylation and activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway, and its capacity to cause generation of reactive oxygen species. We present also a unifying hypothesis accounting for these apparently different effects, although the available experimental models and conditions are highly variable in the literature. A lot of experiments still need to be performed to clarify the positive and negative effects of fluoride. Finding the mechanisms accounting for fluoride toxicity is an important point: indeed, the use of fluoride has been proposed in the preparation of new biomaterials to be inserted in the bone, in order to improve their stable and safe integration.