Author of Teeth, Diet and Health.
DENTAL caries, or tooth decay as nit is commonly called, is only the beginning of a long chain of diseases, which may culminate in serious involvement of the general health. There is no disorder afflicting the human race that is more common. From 85 to 95 per cent. of civilized people and even some household pets suffer from the disease.
Savages, upon whom we look we down from our pedestal of modern culture, would turn away in disgust from people with mouths as unclean as those of many of the inhabitants of our cities. People of an intelligent race should make an earnest effort toward prevention of a disease so rampant and with so many serious consequences. The indifference of the general public should be replaced by a feeling of pride in the possession of a beautiful set of teeth. To bring up children with health, normal teeth lies within the power of all.
“My teeth are so soft they just crumble away”, is an expression often heard, and there is a great deal of truth in it. Hard and well formed teeth resist decay, while poor and defective tooth substance easily falls prey to the attacks of disease. The quality of the hard tooth tissues depends upon the process of calcification, which in the deciduous teeth being nineteen weeks before birth, and in there permanent teeth (the first permanent molar is the first to calcify) ten weeks before birth.
The calcification of the crowns, which is the only part of the exposed to caries, is complete in the deciduous set six months after birth and in the permanent set between the sixth and ninth years, except for the third molar, the crown of which is not finished until the twenty year. It is therefore evident that in the first et of teeth the quality depends mainly upon the mothers supplying, during pregnancy as well as while nursing, the material necessary for strong teeth.
The food that the expectant mother eats supplies, though her blood circulation, nutrition for the growth and development of the child. The mothers milk should contain all the ingredients needed. vitamins and organic mineral salts are of greatest importance for the development of bone and teeth, and can only be supplied during this period of life if the mothers diet contains an abundant supply,.
All the permanent teeth, with the exception of the first permanent molar, being to calcify after the child is one years old. At this age the childs diet, therefore, must contain all thee vitamins and mineral salts in abundance. Unfortunately, our modern food is extremely deficient in these important tooth builders. On this account teeth are frequently of poor quality to being with, and poorly calcified teeth are very susceptible to dental caries.
Strong, hard teeth do not necessarily remain so. The lime salts which are used in the formation of the teeth may become absorbed if there is a deficiency of lime salts in the body. This deficiency may be due to a diet particularly poor in lime salts. In these salts it is interesting to observe that they are abundantly contained in those parts of our food which are usually wasted, such as the hulls of grains, fruit skins, potato peelings, and so on.
Some of the lime salts are removed from food in the process of refining. Refined sugar, for example, is liable to do very great harm, for when taken into the system it attracts the free lime salts, which then have to be supplied in excessive quantity to prevent a decalcification of the bone and teeth. A third and comparatively recently dissevered factor is the function of the vitamins.
It is difficult to recognize caries in its early stags and when we become aware of the condition we find to our regret that the harm fine is considerable. A whitish, milky appearance of the enamel is a sign that it has been undermined, and if the cavity is deep a certain amount o f pain may be caused by sugar, sweets, salt, fruit, acids and irritating food of any kind.
According to the most recent researches, the constitutional or predisposing factor in pyorrhoea is that of malnutrition. Errors in diet, and particularly faulty preparation of food resulting in insufficient content of vitamins and mineral salts, play a most important part.
An unbalanced diet, faulty elimination, and toxic absorption from intestinal food decomposition resulting from chronic constipation, are also important factors. A certain type of pyorrhoea is found accompanying other debilitating disease, such as diabetes and mercurial poisoning.
The local causes which aggravate the condition causing injury or infection consist principally of unhygienic conditions, such as soft deposits and stagnant food under the gum margin or between the teeth. In his African researches. Dr. Stanley Colyer of London found that along the Appear Zambesi the Barotzi and related tribes suffer a great deal from pyorrhoea, while other are virtually free from the disease.
On careful study of the diet it came to light that the Barotzi, Mweru, and Bangweulu natives use as their main food cassava, a rot which is dried, crushed, and prepared until it becomes a stogy, elastic and rather sticky mass. Thee natives free from pyorrhoea did not possess this food. From these findings Dr. Colyer makes the deduction that pyorrhoea is caused by the sticky food remaining around the teeth and irritating the gums. He also believes that modern cooking produce foods of similar consistency which, being gelatinous and adhesive, have a harmful effect when lodged under the gum margin and between the teeth.
This theory would also be supported by the fact that pyorrhoea became rampant among the ancient Greeks and Romans simultaneously with the introduction of elaborate cocking and excessive feasting. Hot and freshly backed bread, cake, and similar foods, from a whitish deposit around the teeth, which sticks to the gum margin and cannot be properly removed. Old, dry bread mad of coarse flour will not adhere; as a mother of fact, it acts as a cleanser.
Hard concretions on the teeth, such as salivary calculus, commonly called tartar, also irritate the gum. In addition to this there is serumnal calculus which, deposited underneath the gum and in pyorrhoea pockets, forms a secondary source of irritation, contributing much to the chronicity of thee disease. Injury of thee gums by toothpicks, injudicious use of the tooth- brush or dental floss, poor filling, inlays, and especially overhanging crowns and ill-fitting bridges, are contributory factors.
If one were asked to taken half a spoonful of decayed food and pus with every meal, would he expect to remain health ? This is exactly what happens in children suffering from dental caries and gumboils, because of broken-down temporary teeth, and in the mouths of adults who have pyorrhoea, sinuses from infected teeth, or ill-fitting crowns and bridges, which often cause most unsanitary conditions and are a source of gingival inflammations and ulceration.
Many can withstand the ingestion of this pus for a long time, but the day of reckoning is sure to come. For a long time the acids of the stomach have been regarded as destructive to bacteria. Hunter, however, says that there is a limit to the power of the stomach to destroy micro-organisms and that these powers become progressively weakened. Eventually disease of the stomach results, and the infection may also be carried to still more remote parts of the intestinal canal.
A patient consulted Dr. Hunter once for severe inter-mittent sickness an pain in the stomach, which had been causing trouble for eight months. There was loss of weight, increasing weakness, and other symptoms suggesting cancer. Morphia had to be used, and constant complaint was made of a bitter taste in the mouth, nausea, and loathing of all food. The tongue was coated with a dirty, moist fur. The patient wore false teeth both in the upper and lower jaws.
The plates were scrupulously clean and the gums beneath healthy. Of the four teeth present there were decayed, suppurating around the roots, with pus welling up on pressure. On examination, Dr. Hunter found no sign of malignant disease in the stomach or abdomen, and he made a provisional diagnosis of gastritis (inflammation of the stomach), caused by continual swallowing of pus.
He ordered the removal of the teeth. A week later the patients tongue was clean, and his sense of taste had returned for the first time in eight moths. The condition of the stomach improved, but was not cured at once. The vomitus obtained two weeks later was sill found to be loaded with bacteria. Treatment of the stomach was unnecessary in addition to removal of the dental cause, after which there recovery, with increase in weight, from that time onward.