History Of Fluoride


History of Fluoride

Fluoride is a naturally occurring element. It is found in rocks and soil everywhere, in fresh water and ocean water. In fact, waters in and around the United States have natural fluoride levels that range from 0.1 parts per million to over 12 parts per million.

Prior to 1945, a series of epidemiologic and laboratory studies confirmed the association between the environment (naturally-occurring fluoride concentrations of water supplies) and the health and cosmetic appearance of the teeth. Where the fluoride level was low there was a high prevalence of dental caries, yet where the fluoride level was high there was a low prevalence of dental caries but a high prevalence of dental fluorosis/enamel mottling. This led to the concept of creating an ideal environment for optimal dental health through adjusting the naturally occurring fluoride level to about 1 part per million.

Fluoride's properties were discovered because of lack of tooth decay and the relationship to the water suppy in regions of the American Southwest.

“The story of how fluoridation's value was discovered is not only fascinating, but should also be reassuring to some doubters since it reveals that the early researchers had no bias, no axe to grind. They were simply looking for answers to certain dental problems. Dr. Frederick S. McKay, a practicing dentist in Colorado with an extraordinary curiosity and dedication to human betterment, spent the first 30 years of this century tracking down the cause of a certain type of tooth stain which has always been prevalent in Colorado and several southwestern states. He first found, strangely enough, that this staining occurred in people whose teeth had a high resistance to decay. He finally discovered, in 1931, that the staining and resistance to decay were both due to the high concentration of fluoride which occurred naturally in that region.

Then Dr. H. Trendley Dean and a team from the U.S. Public Health Service spent 10 years evaluating the dental health of 7,000 children in 4 southwestern states with moderate to high concentrations of naturally occurring fluoride to find what concentration gave the best protection without staining. They found it to be one part fluoride in a million parts of water.

A crucial test was begun in 1945 in Newburgh, New York, to see whether deliberate addition of fluoride to a water supply which had very little natural fluoride would provide the same benefit. Over a 10-year period, the children of Newburgh developed nearly 60% fewer cavities than the children of the comparable city of Kingston, where the water was not fluoridated. Since then, thousands of studies of the effectiveness and safety of fluoridation have been made with consistent results.”
- Benjamin Spock, M.D.

“Community water fluoridation remains one of the great achievements of public health in the Twentieth Century - an inexpensive means of improving oral health that benefits all residents of a community, young and old, rich and poor alike.”
Dr. David Satcher, Surgeon General of the United States, 1998-2002
History of Fluoride - fluoride information logo

Fluoride's properties were discovered in the American Southwest due to the markedly better teeth health of the local population than in other regions of the country.


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