In 1901, a Colorado Springs dentist named Frederick McKay noticed many of his patients had peculiarly mottled brown teeth — but far fewer cavities than the norm. The cause, Dr. McKay determined after years of investigation, was high levels of natural fluoride in the town’s water. His discovery eventually led to the widespread fluoridation of public water systems across America and a dramatic decline in tooth decay over the past 70 years.
Numerous studies have shown the protective effects of adding fluoride to water, especially for kids, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hails community water fluoridation as one of the 20th century’s top 10 public health achievements. State and local budgets have benefited too, thanks to lower public expenditures for dental care.
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