Dentist Frederick McKay

Dr. Frederick McKay explaining the benefits of fluoride in drinking water to a young patient (1952.) Credit Bettmann/Corbis

In 1901 Frederick McKay, a recent dental school graduate, left New York to start a new life in Colorado Springs. Upon his arrival, he soon discovered that many local inhabitants displayed brown teeth. Dr. McKay took an interest in solving the mystery of the “Colorado Brown Stain.” It took 30 years to discover that it was the high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the water that caused the discoloration of tooth enamel. Furthermore, researchers concluded people whose teeth were afflicted by the Colorado Brown Stain were resistant to dental cavities.

fluorosis

By comparing fluoride levels across the country, by the late 1930s, it was discovered that fluoride levels of up to 1.0 ppm in drinking water did not cause enamel fluorosis. In 1945, Grand Rapids became the first city in the world to fluoridate its drinking water. For the next 15 years, researchers recorded the rate of dental decay for Grand Rapids’ 30,000 schoolchildren. They concluded the rate of tooth decay among Grand Rapids’ children born after fluoride was added to the water supply fell by over 60%. Water fluoridation currently benefits more than 200 million Americans.

tooth Enamel matrix

Tooth enamel is made up of a Hydroxyapetite crystal matrix. When oral bacteria consume sugar, they excrete acid as a byproduct. The Hyroxyapetite crystals dissolve in acid. Over time this can cause a cavitation in the tooth, otherwise known as a cavity. When Fluoride is present, it can combine with Calcium and Phosphate ions to rebuild the enamel matrix, making it even more resistant to acid erosion than before.

Enamel crystals

Best sources for Fluoride to protect your teeth:

1. There are many benefits to drinking tap water. Water will keep you hydrated to maintain body functions at optimal level. Water is calorie free, which helps keep our waist line in check. It costs absolutely nothing to drink tap water because it’s free. As an extra bonus, tap water even fights cavities. All New York City tap water is Fluoridated at a concentration of approximately 1.0 part per million (ppm).

tap water

2. Mouth wash – Certain mouthwashes contain Fluoride. ACT mouthwash has 0.05% Sodium Fluoride. It’s available at every major pharmacy and online. Rinsing 1 minute before bed time significantly reduces the risk of cavities. But remember not to eat, drink or rinse with anything after using ACT. This way it works on healing your teeth while you sleep. As an added bonus ACT mouthwash is alcohol free. So it does not burn in your mouth. Check the label on your mouthwash to find out if it contains cavity fighting Fluoride.

Fluoride ACT

3. Dentists can also prescribe Fluoride containing toothpaste. This is usually the least efficient way to get Fluoride since most people will rinse out the tooth paste right after brushing.

The advantages of using fluoride to repair and strengthen enamel are many. Stronger enamel will result in less sensitivity to extreme hot or cold temperatures. That means you can drink a hot cup of tea or have an ice cold ice cream without cringing from tooth sensitivity. Teeth whitening procedures will also feel less sensitive when enamel is stronger. Teeth also appear naturally healthier and whiter when enamel is stronger. Most importantly teeth with healthy enamel will not get cavities that can lead to dental emergencies, tooth pain, and lengthy dental work.  Prevention is the best medicine.