Ellis Barker J
BY THE EDITOR.
A STOCKBREEDER judges the health of the animals he wishes to buy by the condition of their teeth. Judged by that test, the health of the civilized is deplorable. On the other hand, savages who live on primitive foods have magnificent teeth. That applied to the primitive races in all climes, from the Poles to the equator, whether they live exclusively of flesh and fish, as do the Eskimos, or are lacto-vegetarians, as certain African and Indian tribes, or whether they are mixed.
Length of life has greatly increased among the civilized in the course of the last few decades, and medical men have taken the credit for the reduced mortality, scarcely with justification. Civil engineers have provided the nations with an enormously increased supply of water in no longer disease-bearing, but is purified by the chemists. Engineers have provided the towns with an excellent drainage system.
Men no longer drink foul surface or well water contaminated with disease organisms. Housing and the food supply have been enormously improved, and last, but not least, deficiencies of the masticatory have been made good by the dentists. In the olden days elderly people had foul mouths which poisoned them and then they became toothless and they lived on slops. Loss of the teeth gravely interfered with nutrition. Besides it interfered with hearing. Toothless jaws are pressed together at a different angle those bearing teeth, and hearing suffers. Many of the toothless who have no false teeth become deaf.
The dentists have been a blessing to the elderly and to the toothless. Unfortunately only a small minority of the dentists are competent. The great majority of dentists mechanically patch the teeth of their patients, and often do a great of mischief. To may sorrow I have experienced the incompetence of dentists. In accordance with the advice generally given, I tried to preserve my teeth as a youth by going every few months to a dentist to have them examined and, if necessary, attended to.
My dentist was man in the Harley Street quarter, who treated many distinguished people, among them some dukes and duchesses. He charged very high prices, had nice manners, and never gave pain. He scaled away the tartar where it was visible on the outside of the teeth above the line of the gums, filled up hollow teeth in the usual way, etc.
Through faulty living my teeth began to deteriorate and they grew very soft. My dentist commented upon the fact that my teeth were so soft that it was difficult to put in a filling by the never enquired about my diet. Preserving teeth by natural means did not interest him.
Perhaps he thought it to his advantage is his patients did not know how to preserve their teeth. I know now that dental decay can be arrested by attending to the patients bowel and by a natural diet, rich in mineral elements and vitamins, which will greatly strengthen the structure of the teeth.
In course of time I experienced discomfort and pain about the gums, and I suspected that pyorrhoea had developed. My dentist pooh-poohed the idea. I then had an X-ray taken by the best radiologist, and showed it to him, and I found to my amazement that this fashionable but incompetent dentist did not know how to read an X-ray picture. Convinced that I had pyorrhoea I went to another dentist who occupied a professorship at one of the leading London hospitals.
He confirmed that I had pyorrhoea, explained to me that that trouble was due to germs and prescribed to me a special tooth-brush in a sterilized container, a special germicidal tooth powder and a germicidal mouth wash, which of course proved absolutely useless. I then discovered that the gums can be strengthened very greatly by massaging them and incidentally the pus at the roots of the teeth can be squeezed out. No dentist had ever informed me of this simple treatment.
Pyorrhoea is very frequently a disease produced by faulty dentistry. If was so in my case. Dental decay above the margin of the gums very often extends beneath the gum margin. After having drilled away the diseased portion of the tooth, my dentist had filled the hollow with the grossest carelessness, allowing long snags of metal to protrude from the side of the tooth below the gum margin into the gum, producing irritation which eventually turned into an abscess, producing pyorrhoea.
The incompetent individual was perfectly satisfied if the outer appearance of the teeth was pleasing to the patient, caring only for the outward appearance. This incompetent individual freed my teeth of the tartar only above the gum margin where it was visible. He did not pay any attention to the tartar below the gum margin. Here it was allowed to accumulate for years, forming a thick layer, loosening the teeth and irritating the gums and producing septic developments.
After trying several dentist who had been highly commended to me, one more incompetent than the other, it was good fortune to discover a dentist who really understood his work. He tool an X- ray himself, pointed out to me that from the roots of my teeth long pieces of metal protruded, that scaling beneath the margin of the gums had never been done and was urgently needed, that my previous dentist had pulled out a tooth, leaving behind a fragment of the root which had created an abscess, etc.
The infamously bad dental work which had been done in my case and for which I had paid hundreds of pounds, gravely injured my general health and my eyesight. Four of my molars had to be extracted and my dentist advised me to replace them by artificial teeth.
I had a horror of artificial teeth. I did not fancy the idea of carrying a foreign body in my mouth. Besides, I had met numerous people whose teeth were practically unusable although made by leading dentists. My father kept a set of false teeth in his desk, finding it quite unusable.
Many people known to me use their false teeth only in order to be able to smile. They cannot chew with their plated and either swallow their food unmasticated or they take out the artificial teeth and endeavour to chew with their gums. Some time ago I talked to the manager of a leading West End firm. He was in his office and complained to me about his digestion. I had known him for years and was aware that he had extremely defective teeth. I told him: “I suppose your digestive troubles are due to the fact that you have no teeth to chew with?”
He laughed aloud, pulled out a drawer of his desk, and there were four sets of teeth. He explained to me that artificial teeth were of no use to him. No dentist could fit him. He had been to four different dentists in the Harley Street quarter, had spent several hundred pounds, but his teeth were quite unusable. I recommended him the right man, who supplied him with a fifth set of teeth. They are wonderfully comfortable and his chronic indigestion is gone.
Some time ago Lord – complained to me about digestive and other troubles. He was a very wealthy man but I noticed that he was entirely toothless. I recommended him to get artificial teeth: “They are not use to me whatever. I have a number of sets and cannot wear one of them.” I could not persuade him to try a new man.
I am in my sixty-fifth year and although only four or five teeth are missing, my dentist urged me to replace them by artificial ones. Knowing his great ability and excellent judgment I reluctantly took his advice.
He made an impression of my mouth, a week afterwards I called on him, and he gave me a set which did not need any adjustment. It fitted at once, It does not give the sensation of a foreign body in my mouth. It gives me the utmost comfort and immediately after it had been put in I forgot its existence.
I suppose dentistry is like surgery. There are geniuses among dentists as there are among surgeons, but they are few. A really good dentist must not merely be a mechanic who knows how to drill holes and fill them up again, but he must be a physician, a man of excellent judgment and a thorough artist. A science is easily learned. A scientist can be made but an artist is born. There are born surgeons and born dentists, and there are others. It seems to me that most dentist are unthinking automata who mechanically follow a certain routine, to the harm of their patients.