Dr. Frederick S. McKay was born in 1874 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was a 1900 graduate of the Dental School University of Pennsylvania and came to Colorado Springs in 1901. Partially because he had the inquisitiveness of a recent graduate and partially because he was not a native of Colorado Springs, Dr. McKay was intrigued by the number of patients whose teeth were stained with white or brown spots; and in severe cases, the enamel was pitted.
Following years of observation and study, McKay determined that it was high levels of naturally occurring fluoride in the drinking water that was causing the mottled enamel. McKay’s deductions were researched by Dr. H. Trendley Dean, a dental officer of the U.S. Public Health Service. Dean designed the first fluoride studies in the United States. These early studies were aimed at evaluating how high the fluoride levels in water could be before visible, severe dental fluorosis occurred.
Now Dean remembered McKay’s claims that fluorosis victims mottled, discolored teeth were especially resistant to decay. He came up with the notion that fluoride added to the water supply at the magic threshold dosage of 1 ppm would prevent tooth decay, while avoiding damage to bones and teeth. He recommended further studies to determine whether his hypothesis was true.
Back at the Mellon Institute, ALCOA’s Pittsburgh industrial research lab, this news was galvanic. There, biochemist Gerald J. Cox immediately fluoridated some lab rats in a study and concluded that fluoride reduced cavities and that: “The case should be regarded as proved.”
In a historic moment in 1939, the first public proposal that the U.S. should fluoridate its water supplies was made not by a doctor, or dentist, but by Cox, an industry scientist working for a company threatened by fluoride damage claims and burdened by the odious expense of disposing tons of toxic industrial waste (fluoride).
Cox began touring the country, stumping for fluoridation. Dean would go on to carve out a nice career for himself as the “father” of public water fluoridation. He became the first dental scientist at the National Institute of Health, advancing to director of the dental research section in 1945.
Dr Sundardas D. Annamalay