By DR. J. MENZIES CAMPBELL.
(By kind permission of The Spectator).
DENTAL disease is the most prevalent of modern complaints; it is more widespread to-day than ever before in the worlds history. The two most important types are caries (decay) and pyorrhoea alveolaris. The former affects the teeth themselves, and the latter the gums and the sockets into which the teeth are implanted.
These ailments were rarities amongst uncivilised tribes, the vast majority of whose dental troubles arose from an attrition (wearing away) of the teeth by the sand, which still remained in the cereals after stone-milling, also in imperfectly cleaned roots and vegetables.
During the Napoleonic Wars, British soldiers were noted for their good teeth. During the Great War, British soldiers teeth were amongst the worst in the world. There is an explanation. The mothers of one hundred years ago not only breast-fed their babies, but fed themselves and their families on natural foods;whereas, modern mothers have habitually eaten refined and denaturalised foods, and, in many instances, either could not or would not breast-feed their babies.
To correlate the evidence: as each nation advanced in civilisation, it departed farther from the natural foods of their early ancestors; concurrently, there was a marked increase in dental disease.
History records facts. To-day science is supplying the reasons. Generally speaking, the refining and cooking of foods reduce their vitamin-content, mineral salts and roughage. These have a definite influence on the teeth.
Mrs. May Mellanby, working under the aegis of the Medical Research Council, has proved that the childs teeth can be affected for good or ill, according to the food eaten by the expectant and nursing mother and by the child. Also, that a tooth with even a poor foundation can be improved by an adequate diet; and, alternatively, a tooth with a good foundation may become defective, if the food be deficient in certain elements.
Dr. Guttorm Toverud of Oslo has found that a proper diet will preserve an expectant mothers teeth as well as prevent the onset of dental caries in her child. After over fifteen years of careful dietetic experiments on the higher apes, Professor Howe of Harvard has proved that decaying teeth are merely a sign of decaying health, and that a rational diet is the best preventive of both. Further, he has been able, by dietetic adjustments, to produce dental caries and pyorrhoea at will, and to cure them by a return to a normal diet.
The environments of Drs. Bunting, Jay and Hard are particularly interesting and illuminating. With a rational diet, which contained no sugar, they were definitely able to control dental caries in groups of school children, and decayed cavities did not increase in size, although left unfilled for a year.
Investigators naturally differ on many points their experiments often being conducted under different conditions, with different types of animals and, in many cases, with different diets but it may be said the majority-verdict is that dental caries and pyorrhoea are due to a diet deficient in vitamins, mineral salts and roughage. An additional factor is over-indulgence in protein (meat, fish, etc.) and cereals, two types of food resulting, after digestion, in what is known as an acid-ash base.
If this be not neutralised by alkaline-ash base foods (fruits, vegetables, milk, etc.) then the balance will be upset and calcium (lime) will be withdrawn from the teeth in Natures effort to maintain a proper equilibrium. How every strongly advocates restricting the acid-ash base foods, in order to insure healthy teeth and healthy bodies.
Dental caries is primarily a disease of youth. Although always indicative of imperfect general nutrition, yet symptoms of this letter, because of the effervescing vitality of youth, are often delayed till later life, when they appear as pyorrhoea, which is, generally speaking, a disease of middle-age; it is usually accompanied by constipation, rheumatism and other constitutional disturbances. For a long time it was believed that pyorrhoea caused these general conditions and that extraction of the teeth was the only cure.
Many advanced thinkers are now convinced that all these conditions are merely symptoms of a general toxaemia (poisoning) arising from the eating of an excess of proteins and cereals and an insufficiency of vitamins, mineral salts and roughage, and that a rational diet is the best antidote. There is no permanent cure for pyorrhoea without a change in the dietary habits. The local symptoms will apparently disappear after extraction of the teeth, but the basal causes will remain untouched. As proof of this, there will continue to be an abnormal, yet progressive, absorption of the bony ridges of the jaw.
Critics often declare that, although our early ancestors were practically immune from dental disease, they were ignorant of vitamins, mineral salts and roughage. This statement is undoubtedly true, but such critics fail to realise that ancient man did not require this knowledge; he could choose only those foods which were natural and unrefined.
It is important that a due proportion of hard foods should be eaten and well chewed. In this way both the teeth and the gums are exercised and the increased circulation of the blood acts as a barrier to disease.
Dental caries and pyorrhoea would become diseases of past if everyone and especially expectant and nursing mothers ate sufficient uncooked and properly cooked vegetables, raw fruit, fresh milk, eggs, butter, cheese, honey, dates and raisins, and reduced the intake of meat, cereals and refined sugar.