Fluoride pioneer retires
If you were born since 1961 and have a
nice set of choppers, you may be interested in the retirement of the doctor who helped you way back when. About 1 out of 4
people in this age group will be able to look in a mirror and see clear signs that Dr. Peebles helped them.
Dr. Tom Peebles was fresh out of Harvard
medical school in 1953 when he began the first clinical trial of using fluoride in the common vitamins mothers gave to their
newborns. This was a new way to deliver fluoride. It is different from fluoridated water in that it starts earlier (birth,
rather than whenever you start drinking water), and the doses are far more certain.
Fluoridated water prevents about half of
cavities. Most people who had it have far better teeth than their parents, but the prevention is not the specific stereotype
seen with the vitamins. There are usually lots of fillings, just very small, and widely distributed in the mouth.
By 1961 Dr. Peebles’ clinical trial
had resulted in approval of a new product with Hoyt Pharmaceutical Company. (Other companies quickly followed. The popular
Poly-Vi-FlorŽ from Mead Johnson was introduced the next year.)
Since fluoridated water was blocked in
about half the country, the demand for the fluoridated vitamins was intense. Approximately 80% of the kids born after 1962
got them, if they lived in un-fluoridated areas.
In 1974 Dr. Peebles (a pediatrician), along
with a Norwegian dentist, Dr. Aasenden, published the first of his reports. The
cavity-prevention was a phenomenal 80%, but the dosage turned out to be a little too strong. Many of the kids (by then in
their teens) had small white spots on their teeth from too much fluoride. It was not until 1979 that doses were lowered (after
a second report in 1978).
If you are one of the “kids”
in this age group (born 1962 – 1978), you might want to look closely to see if you fit the stereotype:
First check for cavities (fillings now).
Put your finger on one of your front teeth, and count back to tooth number 6. If that tooth, and ONLY that tooth, has a filling,
you’re our guy. It should be like that in all four corners of your mouth. (That tooth is your first permanent molar.
The part with the filing, the chewing surface, forms just BEFORE birth, so did not get the fluoride. The rest of that tooth,
and all your other permanent teeth, formed after the fluoride started, and should have zero cavities assuming your parents
did not get forgetful.)
Second check for the white spots. They
are also in a specific place. Unfortunately it is in your very front teeth, on the leading edge. (If the spots had been in
back somewhere no one would have cared.) Sometimes the spots are so faint you may have never noticed them. They show better
if a bright light shines on you from your side. The spots fade somewhat with age, and wear off, so you might not see them
now. (If you have only the spots, but not the cavity pattern above, you may have gotten them some other way. For example,
fluoridated water if mixed with powdered formula delivers too much fluoride and causes similar spots.)
A third way to recognize the stereotype
is a little trickier. The enamel just above the leading edge of the front teeth should be strikingly beautiful. One of the
physical effects of fluoride on developing teeth is enamel that has a surface texture about like the inside of a seashell.
By the time this enamel formed, you had grown up a little, and the dose was perfect. The old doses only caused the spots on
the teeth that were forming right at birth, when the average baby weighs 7 pounds. By age 6 months most babies double their
After Dr. Peebles worked with Hoyt to make
the infant vitamins with fluoride, and after a long and distinguished medical career, he helped found our small company, Prophy
Research Corporation. (Prophy rhymes with trophy; it is slang for prevention.) As our chairman, he can take credit for the
most recent “fluoride first”. In 2000 the OptiDoseŽ web site published the first recommendations to give children
fluoride doses based not on the usual age but on the body weight of the child. This is still experimental, but theoretically
we will someday see most children with zero cavities and gorgeous model-quality teeth.
Dr. Peebles will be succeeded by W. Darby
Glenn, MD. He and his wife Frances (DDS) are better known for their work with prenatal fluoride. We will do the best we can
without Dr. Peebles. He left us strong and healthy, just like all those nice teeth out there. As a small company, we only
get paid in stock. In his 14 years with us Dr. Peebles never cashed in a penny of that stock. Thanks to a heck of a guy.