Water Fluoridation Began in Colorado

Efforts to introduce fluoride to drinking water have helped to protect thousands of Americans from tooth decay. The idea of fluoridation stemmed from a discovery in Colorado, where a dental school graduate began his life-changing research. Although water fluoridation protects your teeth from decay, some people worry about fluorosis staining, which fluoride can cause. Fortunately, cosmetic dentistry can help reduce the appearance of fluorosis staining.

The History of the Colorado Brown Stain

River in ColoradoIn 1901, recent dental school graduate Frederick McKay moved from the East Coast to Colorado Springs in hopes of opening a new dental practice. Upon his arrival, McKay was shocked to see a majority of the locals with grotesquely stained teeth. In his observations, a large number of people had several teeth stained entirely brown, while others showed pitted enamel. The condition became known as the Colorado Brown Stain, but nobody knew what caused it.

Unable to believe that such a large-scale dental epidemic did not exist anywhere in existing dental literature, McKay set out to solve the mystery. In 1909, renowned dentist Dr. G.V. Black agreed to collaborate with McKay. They conducted a study that revealed that nearly 90% of children born in Colorado Springs suffered from Colorado Brown Stain, which Black referred to as mottled teeth. Their research showed that people born in Colorado Springs, or who came while their teeth were still developing, showed signs of this condition. They also found that afflicted children were inexplicably resistant to dental caries.

Over the next 30 years, McKay collaborated with researchers around the nation searching for the cause of this perplexing condition. It wasn’t until 1931 that he made the promising discovery of high Bauxite concentrations in the water supplies of afflicted towns. When he reported these findings, researchers at the Aluminum Company of America took and tested samples of their own to find out if Bauxite really was the cause. Using sophisticated technology that McKay did not have access to, lab assistants discovered high concentrations of fluoride in the drinking water from afflicted towns. The team reported their findings to McKay and efforts to uncover the impact of fluoride on tooth enamel began. The terms “Colorado Brown Stain” and “Mottled Teeth” changed to Fluorosis staining shortly after in order to reflect the true cause of the condition.

Fluoride Research Continued

Dr. H. Trendley Dean of the NIH lead the charge in research to explore the impact of waterborne  fluoride on tooth enamel. Working in collaboration with other NIH scientists, Dean’s efforts lead to the development of a method to measure the fluoride content of water samples. They used their method to determine what fluoride level caused fluorosis, and what levels offered increased resistance to tooth decay. By the late 1930’s, his team had found the perfect balance of fluoride.

Benefits of Widespread Water Fluoridation

Efforts to introduce fluoride to drinking water across the nation began in the mid to late 1900s. These efforts have reduced dental caries in adults 20%-40% over the last few decades. Studies on the optimum fluoride content in water protected communities from the addition of too much fluoride. Although fluoride levels will usually not cause fluorosis staining, it is still important not to give infants tap water in communities with naturally high water fluoridation in order to avoid staining their developing teeth. Adults are not at risk of developing fluorosis staining.

Cosmetic Dentistry Restores Your Smile

Occasionally, permanent teeth developing under the gums in childhood are affected by large amounts of fluoride. Fluorosis causes permanent staining, and enamel pitting in severe cases. These stains don’t endanger your oral health, but they can be embarrassing. If you suffer from fluorosis, cosmetic dentistry can restore your smile. At Park meadows Dental Care, we create carefully crafted porcelain veneers that affix to the surface of your front teeth to cover tough stains. These restorations look natural and can give you a dazzling, damage-free smile.

You deserve to feel good about your smile. For more information about preventative and cosmetic dentistry, please call 303-759-5652 for a consultation at our office in Southern Denver.

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