Wytheville Dentist Seeks
Tooth-Hardening Mouthwash

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 ideas.

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 in Richmond.

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.

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