FORT WAYNE, IND. It was the butt of many jokes in the 1950’s and ’60’s when Crest toothpaste rolled out its ‘look mom, no cavities’ commercials, advertising what was actually one of the 20th Century’s greatest leaps forward in public health; the discovery that adding fluoride to toothpaste virtually eliminated cavities. And the man responsible for that milestone was an IU chemistry professor from right here in 21 Country.
Fort Wayne native and Central Catholic High grad Dr. Joseph Muhler was at Indiana University Bloomington in the 1950’s when he began his search for the right fluoride compound to add to toothpaste. After years of public testing on Bloomington school students Muhler determined fluoristan was the answer. In 1955 Proctor and Gamble introduced Crest, the first toothpaste to include fluoristan and overnight Dr. Joseph Muhler became a global celebrity.
“He garnered a lot of recognition and fame for his work,” says Muhler’s son, retired Fort Wayne physician Dr. Joseph Muhler II. “He was in demand internationally as a lecturer and consultant. He was a driven, hyperactive man. Whatever he did he attacked with passion.”
Muhler says his celebrity father traveled the world consulting and lecturing. And when he needed an escape from the pressure of unwanted fame Joseph Muhler retreated to a patch of farm ground near Howe, Indiana.
“His strange non-dental passion was farming,” says Muhler. “His escape from his research and his teaching obligations was growing corn and wheat.”
Joseph Muhler loved farming, loved hanging around the local supply store chatting with farmers about weather, swapping stories, telling jokes. And imbibing his one secret delight; the world famous oral health expert chewed tobacco. Joseph Muhler died in 1996 at age 73 but he will again be the talk of the dental world in may when he’ll be inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame in Washington, his name inscribed alongside fellow Hall of Famers Alexander Graham Bell and the Wright brothers. Officially recognized, finally, for what we all have known for many decades. Joe Muhler from Fort Wayne, Indiana made all our lives a little better.