02/05/2010  |  
The Importance of Fluoride and Fluoridation in Dentistry

Anytime the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues a statement saying that fluoride and fluoridation in dentistry is one of the 10 most important public health measures of the 20th century, you can rest assured there has been exhaustive evidence from years of research backing it up. However, discovering this fact initially was like many other scientific endeavors; it was a reactive versus proactive discovery. In the early 1900s, Dr. Fredrick McKay wondered why his patients in Colorado Springs, CO had brown stains on their teeth but with few to no cavities. After years of investigations, he established that it was due to something in the drinking water. In 1931, H.V. Churchill, a chemist for the Alcoa Company, discovered that when excess fluoride is present in water it stains teeth. That same year, Dr. H. Trendly Dean was studying the harmful effects of fluoride. However, by 1950 he instead discovered that very small amounts of fluoride (0.7 – 1.0 parts per million) in the water supply has large benefits in preventing tooth decay with no or minimal staining.

Thanks to years of additional research, we now know the mechanism of fluoride action—how it works through the saliva to promote and form more acid resistant enamel.

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