Monday, January 03, 2011

The Future of Dentistry - 1945 Edition

A 1940's dental office

Read this interesting interview with University of Minnesota School of Dentistry Dean William H. Crawford from 1945.
Human teeth are breaking down.
More people have decayed teeth today than 10 years ago.
But dental scientists are on the verge of discoveries which may halt the destruction and give the next generation better teeth than ours.
So says Professor William H. Crawford, new dean of University of Minnesota school of dentistry – one of the top dental schools in the country.
Crawford was graduated from Minnesota in 1923. He returned to Minneapolis July 1 from the University of Indiana, where he had been head of the dentistry school for five years.
Professor E. A. Hooton, famous Harvard university anthropologist, says civilization is raising havoc with teeth. He asserts they have become the foci of infections which threaten to undermine the health of the whole human species.
Crawford agrees that tooth decay is becoming more and more serious. The process is going on without interruption, because a study of the teeth of University of Minnesota freshmen from 1929 to 1939 disclosed a 5.5 per cent increase in decay.
He also agrees with the Harvard savant that dentistry schools have too often been backward in their own field while too many dentists have been content with being tooth carpenters rather than scientists.
But, says the new dean, all that is changing. Dental scientists are no longer baffled by what causes tooth decay. They are pretty sure the culprit is sugar.
Crawford is so confident of this finding that he will undertake to stop tooth decay in any child by the simple expedient of putting it on a sugar-free diet for 10 days or two weeks.
Decay seems to be caused by excretions of bacteria, which live on fermented sugar. Chief of these is the lactobacillus acidophilus. When the sugar is removed, the organism dies.
Even after the child is put back on a moderate sugar diet, Crawford said, the bacteria do not return in large numbers.
He blames increase in tooth decay among youngsters of today on the fact that they get too much sugar in the form of candy and pop.
Dental scientists are now hot on the trail of something else which seems to have a lot to do with good or bad teeth.
This is the chemical fluorine. It is used to etch glass. It is also employed as an insecticide. It also has the property, when it enters into the building of teeth, of making them resistant to decay.
Has dentistry changed in the past 60 years? And, has the understanding of the science behind dental disease changed?

You betcha. But, this interview gives us an interesting perspective in our not too distant dental past.