Have you ever wondered how we started using fluoride for cleaning our smiles? Not only do toothpastes contain this agent, but many community water supplies consist of this ingredient. While we can enjoy its benefits today, it might be worth noting how it came to be one of the top 10 great public health achievements of the 20
th century! Read on to learn a quick history on how fluoride was incorporated in preventive dental care.
The Colorado Brown Stain
Back in 1901, a dental school graduate named Frederick McKay found that many of the locals in Colorado Springs were experiencing brown stains on their teeth. Some smiles even appeared to be caked in dark chocolate! McKay invited a dental researcher named Dr. G.V. Black to help him find the root cause of this situation—a condition they called “tooth mottling.”
Those with mottled teeth were found to be highly resistant to tooth decay. McKay would later discover that the locals were all drinking from a communal water pipeline connecting to a spring miles away. They switched to using water from a nearby spring, and after a few years, tooth mottling vanished. Another study was done in Bauxite, Arkansas, where locals were also suffering from tooth mottling. However, with the help of a chemist named H.V. Churchill, it was found that the water source had high levels of fluoride—the same reason for brown teeth stains in Colorado Springs!
Fluoride In Drinking Water
After McKay and Churchill’s discoveries, the National Institute of Health investigated fluoride and its impact on teeth. Methods were developed to measure and moderate fluoride levels in water so that it wouldn’t stain teeth. Once it was found that small amounts of this ingredient did not darken smiles, a study began by adding the substance to drinking water at Grand Rapids Michigan. 11 years later, the cavity rate among the residents there dropped more than 60%.
What Are the Effects of Fluoride on Your Smile?
Once the effects of fluoride were known, it revolutionized dental care forever! Today, we can enjoy various benefits of this agent in our cleaning products, such as:
Reversing early symptoms of tooth decay
Avoiding harmful bacteria growth in the mouth
Remineralizing weakened tooth enamel
Stunting mineral loss from enamel
Not only do you use fluoride in your toothpastes, but you could also be drinking it from your community’s water supply. If so, you can be sure to enjoy the positive effects for a great smile!
About the Author
Dr. Alysa Sadkin is a proud member of several organizations including the Academy of General Dentistry, the Texas Dental Association, and the Highland Park Study Club. She earned her dental degree from the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine and regularly seeks continuing education to stay on top of the latest technology and techniques. She offers multiple comprehensive treatments—from checkups and cleanings to dental implants—to help you maintain healthy teeth. If you’d like to know more about the effects of fluoride, feel free to visit our
website or call 817-813-6979.