A hundred years ago, tooth decay affected almost all residents of the United States. Despite similar oral hygiene traditions, such as tooth brushing, teeth decayed much faster and got more cavities than our teeth do now.

The reason our teeth are healthier now has a lot to do with fluoride. And the world discovered how fluoride helps fight tooth decay right here in Colorado Springs.

In the early 20th century, most of the residents of Colorado Springs had brown stains on their teeth. In fact, over 90% of children born in Colorado Springs had the condition.

These stains weren’t common elsewhere but they were so common here that the residents didn’t even bother investigating what caused it.

The first person to begin researching the cause of what came to be called Colorado Brown Stain was a Colorado Springs dentist from the East Coast named Frederick McCay.

frederick mccay colorado springs

Photo Credit: Bettmann/Corbis

He moved to the Springs in 1901 and studied Colorado Brown Stain for years without finding any evidence for its cause. He finally convinced a famous dental researcher, Dr. G.V. Black, to come to Colorado Springs to help him.

Together, McCay and Black researched the issue for many years. So long, in fact, that Black died before the full cause of Colorado Brown Stain was known. Before his death, however, he had helped discover that the brown-stained teeth were remarkably resistant to decay, which became critically important.

McCay finally determined that it was something about the water that was causing Colorado Brown Stain. It took him 30 years, but he was eventually able to prove that water with high levels of fluoride was the cause of Colorado Brown Stain.

From this discovery, using Dr. Black’s discovery that brown-stained teeth resisted decay, scientists gradually determined the best fluoride levels for tooth protection. There is a fine balance – too little fluoride leaves teeth vulnerable to decay but too much fluoride damages and stains tooth enamel.

Now, fluoride is found in most towns’ water supplies, as well as in most toothpastes. Of course, decay does still happen, which is why it’s important to have regular checkups and cleanings at the dentist.

Contact our office to schedule your own appointment to keep your teeth healthy and white!