Introduction l Fluoridation Facts 7 best viewed when measured against criteria set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court.8 Additional information about this topic can be found in the Public Policy Section, Question 61. History of Water Fluoridation Research into the effects of fluoride began in the early 1900s. Dr. Frederick McKay, a young dentist, opened a dental practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and was surprised to discover that many local residents exhibited brown stains on their permanent teeth. Dr. McKay could find no documentation of the condition in the dental literature and eventually convinced Dr. G.V. Black, dean of the Northwestern University Dental School in Chicago, to join him in studying the condition. Through their research, Drs. Black and McKay determined that mottled enamel, as Dr. Black termed the condition, resulted from developmental imperfections in teeth. Drs. Black and McKay wrote detailed descriptions of mottled enamel.9,10 (Mottled enamel is a historical term. Today, this condition is called dental or enamel fluorosis.) In the 1920s, Dr. McKay, along with others, suspected that something either in or missing from the drinking water was causing the mottled enamel. Dr. McKay wrote to the Surgeon General in 1926 indicating that he had identified a number of regions in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Idaho, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia where mottled enamel existed. Also in the late 1920s, Dr. McKay made another significant discovery — these stained teeth were surprisingly resistant to decay.10 Following additional studies completed in the early 1930s in St. David, Arizona11 and Bauxite, Arkansas,12 it was determined that high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the drinking water were causing the mottled enamel. In Arizona, researchers studied in great detail 250 residents in 39 local families and were able to rule out hereditary factors and environmental factors, except for one — fluoride in the water which occurred naturally at levels of 3.8 mg/L to 7.15 mg/L.11 In Bauxite, H. V. Churchill, chief chemist with the Aluminum Company of America (later changed to ALCOA), was using a new method of spectrographic analysis in his laboratory to look at the possibility that the water from an abandoned deep well in the area might have high levels of aluminum-containing bauxite that was causing mottled teeth. What he found was that the water contained a high level of naturally occurring fluoride (13.7 mg/L). When McKay learned of this new form of analysis and Churchill’s findings, he forwarded samples of water from areas where mottled enamel was commonplace to Churchill. All of the samples were found to have high levels of fluoride when compared to waters tested from areas with no mottled enamel.10 During the 1930s, Dr. H. Trendley Dean, a dental officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, and his associates conducted classic epidemiological studies on the geographic distribution and severity of fluorosis in the United States.13 These early studies quantified the severity of tooth decay and dental fluorosis, called mottled enamel at that time, according to fluoride levels in the water. In so doing, it was observed that “at Aurora, IL where the domestic water contained 1.2 ppm of fluoride (F) and where a relatively low tooth decay prevalence was recorded, mottled enamel as an esthetic problem was not encountered.”14 Dean and his staff had made a critical discovery. Namely, fluoride levels of up to 1.0 ppm in drinking water did not cause enamel fluorosis in most people and only mild dental fluorosis in a small percentage of people.14-16 In 1939, Dr. Gerald J. Cox and his associates at the Mellon Institute evaluated the epidemiological evidence and conducted independent laboratory studies. While the issue was being discussed in the dental research community at the time, they were the first to publish a paper that proposed adding fluoride to drinking water to prevent tooth decay.17 In the 1940s, four classic, community-wide studies were carried out to evaluate the controlled addition of sodium fluoride to fluoride-deficient water supplies. The first community water fluoridation program, under the direction of Dr. Dean, began in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in January 1945 with Muskegon, Michigan as the nonfluoridated control community. The other three studies were conducted in the following three pairs of cities with the fluoridated city listed first: Newburgh and Kingston, New York (May 1945) Brantford and Sarnia, Ontario, Canada (June 1945) and Evanston and Oak Park, Illinois (February 1947.)18-20 In the 1940s, four classic, community-wide studies were carried out to evaluate the controlled addition of sodium fluoride to fluoride-deficient water supplies.
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