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Yesteryear: Origins of Crest have roots at IUPUI

January 21, 2015

Research life on the West Michigan Street campus changed forever in the 1950s when IU School of Dentistry expert Joseph Muhler teamed up with chemistry professors Harry Day and William Nebergall to earn a patent for the first successful stannous fluoride formula, which became the active decay-preventing agent in Crest toothpaste.

George Stookey

George Stookey

Their work evolved into an agreement with Proctor & Gamble to use the patent for Crest, a success story that earned the dental school’s Oral Health Research Institute, or OHRI, the nickname the “House that Crest Built,” as royalties from Proctor & Gamble's sale of Crest helped fund OHRI research activity.

The success enjoyed by Muhler, Day and Nebergall had a side benefit that rippled through IUPUI’s research history, as well: George Stookey. He joined Muhler’s research team as a graduate assistant in the 1950s, and eventually built a significant reputation for scientific inquiry in his own right.

Muhler told Stookey that “I’d do more good for people than 100 dentists if I stuck with research,” Stookey once said. Given that he became the head of the OHRI and helped IUPUI establish a campus culture grounded in research, that prediction proved prophetic. Stookey became one of the foremost experts on the use of fluoride to improve oral health and to incorporate technology in dentistry to control tooth decay, gum disease and other oral health-related diseases and conditions.

Stookey retired from IUPUI in 2001, but didn’t leave the research world. Instead, he bought a company --Therametric Technologies, Inc. -- that was based in the IU Research & Technology Corporation on the Downtown Canal in Indianapolis.

He helped it grow into a success story in its own right, focusing on dental technologies and on another form of oral health: dental care treats (primarily for small dogs and cats) to prevent plaque and tartar build-up, reduce bacteria, clean teeth and freshen breath for pets. As in humans, proper oral hygiene can add years to a pet’s life.

Note: This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting IUPUI's Strategic Plan initiatives.

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