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Wytheville Dentist Seeks
November 25, 1979
Dr. Thomas E. Butt, a prominent Wytheville dentist whose mother, Mrs. Freda S. Butt, lives at
Pocahontas, has perfected a mouthwash or toothpaste that will harden the enamel of teeth and may
revolutionize his profession. Dr. Butt is visiting France where a company is trying out his
Wytheville Dentist Seeks Tooth-Hardening Mouthwash
Tom Butt has long had a dream of a mouthwash or toothpaste that will harden the enamel
on teeth, remove the plaque that harbors decay-causing bacteria, kill the bacteria and help t
he gums in general. He has been far ahead of the times. But he feels such a product will
be used universally within 10 years and he's working on it. He started early. Thomas E.
Butt, a Wytheville dentist, almost got kicked out of dental school in his freshman year for
his preoccupation with what was then a revolutionary type of mouthwash.
He decided that if stannous fluoride in drinking water helped prevent cavities, it would also
help if it were in mouthwash. This was in 1957, before the advent of fluoride in mouthwashes
and toothpaste. Butt's experience in the field makes him a pioneer. Butt recalls that he had
just graduated from Roanoke College and had started dental school at the Medical College of Virginia
There was a little drugstore about a block off Franklin Street," he said, "where I used to hang
out a lot when I got bored." The druggist had some books on dentistry and mouthwash that he let
Butt read. "The mouthwashes had an alcohol base and were flavored with such things as menthol
and eucalyptus. They really had no benefit." So young Butt set out to make a fluoride mouthwash.
He got the permission of a professor of pharmacy to let him use a laboratory at the school.
He named the product Denterene and contacted a company about marketing it. "This was before
Crest toothpaste or fluoride mouthwashes," he said. Things were looking bright until a Richmond
newspaper got wind of the deal and ran a story about Butt and his product. The dean of the school
read the story and felt Butt's idea was "crazy." He thought the mouthwash a nostrum with
no benefit, Butt said.
At any rate, Butt was placed on academic probation that year and warned to leave the
mouthwash alone. He left it alone but never forgot the idea. He has embellished and expanded
upon it in the past 22 years. He has been working with a chemist and has come up with
several compounds in addition to fluoride that he feels will help protect the teeth and gums.