Fluoride is an element that can be found naturally in the Earth’s crust and water. It can also appear in mineral form in some cases (like fluorite). Over the past decades, fluoride has become a common ingredient of tap water, as cities will add it to the water supply in order to help prevent tooth decay in children. There have been a lot of questions about how fluoride protects your teeth, and whether all that fluoride can be harmful in the long run. The story of the history of fluoridated water helps to answer these questions.
History of Fluoridated Water
In the early twentieth century, a dentist began to study the cause of mysterious brown stains on people’s teeth in Colorado Springs. This man, Dr. McKay, spent years trying to solve the mystery. He eventually discovered, with the help of a dental researcher, that teeth with the stains were more resistant to decay than others.
McKay suspected that the water supply might be the problem, and this was confirmed after another town built a new pipeline, and children started having the stains. He advised them to shut the pipe down, and the discolorations stopped appearing. However, a different researcher discovered that there was a large amount of fluoride in another water supply where people were developing stained teeth. He sent the data to McKay, who finally realized the cause of the stains.
After the discovery was made, researchers began studying exactly what effects fluoride had on tooth enamel. One of them, Dr. Dean, the head of the Dental Hygiene Unit at the National Institute of Health came to believe that a certain amount of fluoride could protect your enamel without causing the brown stains (fluorosis). Grand Rapids, Michigan, was convinced to add fluoride to their water supply to study the long-term effects. Dean’s findings were proved to be right, as the rate of cavities in children decreased by more than 60 percent. This meant that fluoridated water, with a specific amount of fluoride, could protect teeth from tooth decay without causing fluorosis. The practice of fluoridating water is now extremely common in America.
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