The History of Fluoridated Water and Why Dental Fluoride Treatments Are a Good Thing

History of fluoride treatments

Why is fluoride essential for strong teeth?

If you’ve ever set foot in a dental office, you’ve probably had a fluoride treatment, or at least heard about the treatment. By now, you know that it’s a crucial part of your dental health. But fluoride treatments and drinking fluoridated water weren’t always a normal part of daily life. 

Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral found in water, plants, soil, and rocks. It’s also in your bones and teeth. In dentistry, it’s used to promote strong teeth by remineralizing enamel. Introduced commercially in the late 1900s, makes fluoride a relatively new dental discovery.     

Colorado Brown Stains 

In Colorado Springs in the early 1900s, a young dental professional named Frederick McKay was preparing to open a dental practice. He was new to town and surprised to see many locals had brown stains on their teeth. Some stains were so dark it looked as if their teeth were covered in chocolate! 

So many people were affected that it got the nickname “Colorado brown stain.” McKay quickly got busy researching what could be causing this disorder. 

McKay invited Dr. G.V. Black, a respected dental researcher, to help him figure out what was affecting the residents of Colorado Springs. 

They worked for six years and discovered that almost 90% of children born there suffered from these stains but were highly resistant to tooth decay. They still didn’t know what was causing this condition, so they noted the anti-cavity effects and moved on.  

Dental Fluorosis   

Eventually, they discovered that so many locals had brown staining because of high fluoride levels in the town’s water. McKay also studied other cities throughout the country whose residents experienced similar staining.  

In 1945, Grand Rapids, MI, was the first town to have fluoridated water. They began a study to see if adding fluoride to their water would have a similar effect. 

Their study proved that fluoridated water decreased the rate of childhood tooth decay by approximately 60%. There were a few documented cases of fluorosis, but no other adverse effects on their overall or oral health.  

Fluoridated Water Today 

Today, fluoride is widely known as a preventive treatment for cavities. Over half of Americans receive the dental health benefits of fluoridated water. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers this one of the top ten most significant public health achievements of the 20th century because everyone benefits from drinking fluoridated water.

You can check online to see if your town has a fluoridated water source and how much of this mineral it provides. If your town does not offer fluoride through the water, consider using a fluoridated toothpaste to ensure you are receiving the cavity-fighting benefits. 

Other Sources of Fluoride 

Small amounts of fluoride are naturally found in some foods, like shellfish. Brewed black tea and coffee contain fluoride because their plants absorb the mineral through the soil. Not everyone likes coffee or shellfish, but not to worry. There are several other sources of fluoride available today.


Toothpaste is one of the most popular sources of fluoride. You apply it directly to your teeth to provide a layer of protection. Some companies make toothpaste without fluoride and this is best for children younger than two.   


Like toothpaste, many mouthwash products have fluoride that helps rinse away residue and contributes to protecting your teeth. 

Fluoride Supplements 

Children who still have baby teeth may benefit from fluoride supplements. As they chew the tablets, they ingest fluoride and strengthen their permanent teeth as they prepare to erupt through the gums.  

Professional Fluoride Treatment 

Fluoride treatments administered in the dental office benefit everyone, especially those with a higher risk for tooth decay. These treatments take a few minutes and come in various forms. Your dental office may apply gel, foam, or varnish using a swab, brush, or tray that rests in your mouth. 

Typically, you must wait r at least 30 minutes before you can eat or drink anything to ensure your teeth absorb the fluoride and you gain the maximum benefit. Your dentist may recommend these treatments every six to 12 months, depending on your risk of developing tooth decay.  

Why is fluoride good at preventing cavities? 

Our enamel gets stripped of minerals when we consume acidic or sugary foods and drinks. This process is known as demineralization. When we limit those foods and consume fluoride through toothpaste or drinking water, we conserve and replace the raw minerals our teeth need to stay strong.

Fluoride is an essential ingredient in our tooth enamel remineralization process. It repairs the damage caused by acids and sugars left in our mouths.  

Get your fluoride treatment done at Monroe Family Dentistry.

Protect your oral health with routine fluoride treatments from Monroe Family Dentistry. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.

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