The History of Fluoride

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Natural Water Fluoridation

Fluoride was first discovered in 1771 by Carl Wilhelm Scheele. It is the 13th most common mineral found in the earth’s crust and is considered the most reactive of all minerals. It was not isolated until 15 years later by chemist Henri Moissan. Moissan received the nobel prize in chemistry for his work with fluoride but died shortly thereafter from fluoride poisoning.

The link between fluoride and dental care didn’t come until 1923 and in a strangely ironic way. In 1909 Frederick McCay was tasked with discovering the cause of a strange tooth affliction isolated to the residents of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The affliction, dubbed ‘Colorado Brown Stain’ caused deeply stained teeth in the residents of Colorado Springs. Some stains were likened to the look of ‘dark chocolate’ covering the teeth. This condition was later dubbed 'fluorisis'.

In 1909 McCay was joined by renowned dental researcher Dr. G.V. Black. Black was horrified by the look of the teeth, but also amazed at the resistance of the teeth to decay and other common dental problems.

Other instances of similar staining in other communities convinced the pair that the water supply was the source of the problem, but it wasn’t until the pair noticed the high levels of fluoride in the water was the connection made. Fluoride was causing the browning, but also strengthening the teeth. Thus the research began to determine if there was a suitable level of fluoride to use that would prevent decay but not cause the adverse side effects found in Colorado.

Artificial Water Fluoridation

In 1945 Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first community to artificially adjust their water fluoride levels to 1.0 ppm, the recognized level for maintaining dental care without adverse effects. By the late 50’s, even though it was widely admitted that it would take decades to gauge the actual health affect on the populus, fluoridation of the water supply was recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a necessary step in dental prevention and by 1960 was introduced in most communities in the United States.

Since the late 80’s and continuing now, many communities have attempted to have the fluoride removed from their water supply. Votes occur regularly to have it removed, with only the community of Portland Oregon having been able to pass the legislation necessary to stop the practice.