NUMEROUS theories have been advanced to account for the almost universal prevalence of decay of the teeth in both young and old. Decay of the teeth often begins in childhood before the permanent teeth have made their appearance, and very few adults can be found who have complete sets of sound teeth. The writer more than thirty years ago observed a relation between digestive failure and decay of the teeth.
Patients whose gastric glands have ceased to make gastric juice were usually found to be toothless, or nearly so. In most such cases, complete sets of false teeth were in use.
A person who is in perfect health has a clean tongue. The mouth contains very few bacteria. The reason for this is the protective influence of the saliva. The saliva is produced from the blood. Its chief constituent is the serum of the blood.
It contains the germ-destroying elements found in the blood when freshly secreted. For this reason, changes in the condition of the blood are reflected in the saliva. When the purity of the blood is high, when it has to a high degree the ability to destroy bacteria, the protective influence of the saliva is high; the tongue is clean; the mouth and the teeth are free from decay; the gums are healthy, and the saliva contains few bacteria.
When the blood is polluted with poisons absorbed from the colon, or some other focus of infection, in such quantities that its germ- resisting properties are greatly lessened, the saliva is affected in like manner, and because of this disease producing germs obtain a foothold in the mouth; the tongue becomes coated; the gums becomes soft and ulcerated; the teeth decay, and the mouth becomes an incubator of germs.
The use of a toothbrush and dentifrices of various sorts may somewhat lessen the rate of decay, but measure of this sort will not arrest the destructive processes due to mouth infection. The primary cause of the decay must be removed; that is, the absorption of poisons into the blood should cease, so that the white blood cells and other defensive means by which the blood defends the body may be restored to normal activity.
When this is accomplished, the tongue will become clean, the decay of the teeth will be arrested, and the gums will return to a normal condition. And this restoration to a normal condition will occur even when there is no change in the methods of caring for the teeth.
A man whose teeth are decaying rapidly is sick. His vital resistance is low. When his health is restored to normal and his vital resistance regained, decay will cease, and not before. The most effective means of checking decay of the teeth is change of the flora of the colon and the mouth; that is, the destructive bacteria present in both extremities of the alimentary canals in vast numbers must be driven out and normal bacteria established in their place.
The diet should be such that decay and putrefaction will not be encouraged. When the tongue is clean, the breath sweat, and the stools free from putrid odour, dental decay will cease and the mouth will soon have a healthy appearance. The discoveries made in recent years in relation to the causes of decay of the teeth have rendered doubtful the value of the toothbrush and the use of dentifrices.
A few years ago, the writer lived for a few weeks in a small oasis in the Sahara desert, in close contact with the semi-civilized Bedouins of that region. These half-wild Arabs live comfortably in the open air and are extremely simple in their habits. Their food is of the plainest sort, chiefly wheat, fresh vegetables and dates. They are an extremely hardly race and dental decay is comparatively rare.
A boy of thirteen whom the writer carefully examined, had well developed, sound teeth, wholly free from decay and apparently free from plaques or film. The boy had lived since he was seven years old wholly in the open air. His father having died when he was seven years of age, he was immediately turned out of doors by his stepmother, and during the six years which had since elapsed he had not once slept under a roof.
At night, he simply wrapped his cloak about him and laid down by a wall, usually the wall of a mosque, ” because,” he said, he “felt safer there than elsewhere.”.
When asked about his diet, this sturdy little Arab, large for his age and hardy as a wild donkey, informed us that he usually ate but once a day, sometimes was so fortunate as to get two meals, but was quite contented with one meal. His bill of fare consisted of a piece of coarse bread prepared from barley and wheat, and an onion, a turnip, or some other fresh food, and a small amount of milk, which he obtained from the sheep which he tended, his occupation being that of a shepherd.
His compensation was the bread, onion and raw vegetables which were supplied in sufficient quantity for a single meal, and, rarely, two. This desert lad had never seen a toothbrush and had never done anything for the care of his teeth, but remarked that he sometimes rinsed his moth with water after eating. His teeth shone like ivory and showed no trace of discoloration, tartar or decay.
The writer is convinced that a clean onion is more important for the protection of the teeth than a clean mouth. When such a state of intestinal toxaemia exists that the tongue is heavily coated and the breath foul, the resistance is low and bacteria readily obtains a foothold, not only in the mouth, but in any other part where the natural defences are weakened.