I’ll say it again, I’m not scared, Fluoride! What a heavy and burdened word it has become, capable of inciting anger and discord. For me, it incites confusion. Why does there seem to be two opposing views where both sides fight over validity, where is the real information, and where should I draw my own mark in the sand?
To give a comprehensive evaluation of this topic, I will be separating the subject into three different blog posts. The first will be the history of fluoride, followed by studies on fluoride’s effect on teeth, and finishing with a post on the possible side effects of ingested fluoride.
Fluorides are any variation of the naturally occuring element fluorine when combined with another element. Fluorite (also called fluorspar) is a naturally occuring mineral composed of fluorine and calcium, also called Calcium Fluoride, or CaF2. This is the type of fluoride found in natural water sources. “Fluorides in general are toxic to humans, however CaF2 is considered the least toxic, and even relatively harmless due to its extreme insolubility. Moreover, calcium is a well-known antidote for fluoride poisoning. When an antidote exists in combination with a poison, it makes the poison far less toxic to the body. Calcium fluoride is the form of fluoride commonly found in natural, untreated waters” (Fluoride Detective: Types of Fluoride).
Chemists began experimenting with fluorite in 1855, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s when graduate student Willy Lange at the University of Berlin discovered that when fluorite is combined with sulfuric acid, a variety of fluoride compounds are produced. These compounds were first researched for use as an agricutural insecticide and a better method of moth proofing. Lange continued to study and discover many fluorophosphates and fluorophosphoric acids and discovered, alongside Gerda von Kreuger in 1932, the ester of fluophosphoric acid which, through the research of Gerhard Schrader, became the chemical weapon Tabun (poison gas).
With the development of so many fluoride compounds and their vast array of uses in commercial and agricultural industry, as well as chemical weaponry, several large companies began funding fluoride research and patenting methods of production. Here are a list of the four largest companies:
Ozark Chemical Company (paired with Perdue Research Foundation in 1943 for the Defense Research Facility). They later became the Ozark Mahoning Chemical Company.
Monsanto Chemical Company (who patented the production of DFP used in the chemical weapon Tabun in 1944). They became the Monsanto agricultural company we know today in 1960.
Proctor & Gamble. They were the first company to display interest and filed a patent with Willy Lange while he was in Berlin.
Colgate-Palmolive. This company created a division of dental medicine at Rutgers University on June 20, 1956.
In 1950, Ozark Mahoning was working with Rochester University in discovering the possible toxicity and uses of sodium monofluorophosphate. The alum of Rochester university, Harold C. Hodge, reached out to a friend at the Dental School who included a study on the effect of sodium monofluorophosphate (MFP) on dental caries. Ozark found the toxicity of MFP to be realtively low with possible usefulness in dentistry, but with insufficient research for any conclusion. Proctor & Gamble jumped on this opportunity and decided to sponsor research from Indiana University on tin fluoride compounds for use in toothpaste in 1954, as the tin fluorides seemed to be more effective than the MFP. This lead to the production of “Crest”.
The first report in 1954 by the University of Indiana on MFP discovered that it was ineffective on dental caries. Yet in 1957, the Rochester Group found that it was effective, at least when given to hamsters. The co-author of this report was John W. Hein, the dental director of Colgate-Palmolive Company.
In 1959, Sten Ericsson of the World Health Organization (representative of dentistry) created a patent for the use of MFP in toothpaste, even though both Colgate-Palmolive and Proctor & Gamble were hesitant on its use. In 1962, Wayne E. White of Ozark Mahoning, alongside researchers at the Oklahoma School of Medicine found that dental and water application were lowering the rates of dental caries among children inside a parochial school. The study was unsupervised and tests subjects continually dropped out.
I promise, I’m not swaying the information here or making anything up, this is strangely how things progressed.
The very next year, White travelled across the globe to find a market for MFP and came back with an estimate of selling 90,000lbs of it within a 12 month span. That’s a huge pay out. To keep from missing out on a major financial opportunity, Colgate-Palmolive and Monsanto filed patents for adding MFP to toothpaste that same year. Merck Company jumped on board with several patents in 1965 for a specific method of producing MFP; their own corner of the market that other companies couldn’t touch.
This is how the use of fluoride evolved. But why did Harold C. Hodge decide to include a study on dental caries? Undoubtedly, Hodge was aware of the research of Frederick McCay, Dr. G. V. Black and Dr. H. Trendley Dean. These three men investigated the prevalent brown staining of teeth in Colorado Springs, CO. This condiditon is called dental fluorosis, caused by an abnormally high amount of fluorite in the water supply. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that Dean connected the disorder to an unusually low percentage of dental caries. Dean, employed as the head of the Dental Hygiene Unit at the National Institute of Health, worked to discover the perfect amount of water fluoridation where there would be no dental mottling as well as decreased levels of dental caries. This “perfect” level would be at 1.0 ppm.
Grand Rapids, Michigan was the first to incorporate water monitoring and adjustments for fluoridation in 1945. Since then, 47 out of the 50 states in the US have adopted artificially adding fluoride to the water supply. The results? Reports are coming out in droves refuting the claims that fluoride reduces cavities, while others support it. If you are still interested, stay tuned for my next post which will evaluate many studies and sources focused on fluoride’s efficacy in fighting tooth decay.
Starr, Golda. “Types of Fluoride.” Fluoridedetective.com. WordPress. Web. 22 February 2015. <http://fluoridedetective.com/types-of-fluoride/>
Meiers, Peter. “Monofluorophosphate History.” Fluoride-history.de. Web. 22 February 2015. <http://www.fluoride-history.de/p-mfp.htm>
“The Story of Fluoridation.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. National Institutes of Health. Web. 23 February, 2015. <http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/Fluoride/TheStoryofFluoridation.htm>