Let us briefly review this: At birth all of the temporary teeth are definitely formed and calcification is in process; the six year molars are formed and calicification of their crowns is under way; all of the other permanent teeth have been laid down and await calcification during early childhood.
It is before birth, when these teeth are forming, that we must begin to save the teeth of child and adult. For, not only is it here that those defects are produced which are visible in so many teeth when they erupt but here also are many of the defects initiated which are to appear later. A soft pre-tooth structure laid down in the jaws of the embryo, due to nutritional perversions of the mother, predispose the teeth to cavities and decay. Faulty calcification due to nutritional perversions and deficiencies, injures both the temporary and the permanent teeth.
A faulty diet and nutritional derangements after birth easily result in faulty tooth structure, both in the temporary and permanent teeth. The prenatal months and the pre-school years are, indeed, as they have been aptly termed, the golden age for the prevention of tooth decay. If no thought is ever given to the requirements of children's teeth until after they erupt, the chances are that, on our modern diet, the child's teeth will be defective and short lived.
These are the reasons that I address this chapter more particularly to mothers. For, upon the mother falls the duty of feeding the teeth during the prenatal months and during the nursing months after birth. The duty and the responsibility is hers.
Her duty is not merely to her child but to herself, as well. For if she does not supply the embyo and perhaps even the suckling, with the necessary elements in her food, nature will manage to take some of these out of her own tissues. Her own teeth will suffer, and perhaps, also, her blood and other tissues, due to nature's habit of safeguarding the child at the mother's expense.
Although an anemic woman may, and often does, improve during pregnancy; if her diet is poor or lacking in certain food substances, particularly iron, she will become more anemic. The normal woman on an inadequate diet is likely to become anemic in the final months of pregnancy.
The supply of calcium to the fetus depends upon the character and quality of the mother's food. Feeding inorganic calcium to her has proved to be valueless. Only organic lime salts are available for use by the body. The presence of vitamins are thought to be essential to the assimilation and fixation of calcium and phosphorus.
Unless the mother eats a diet rich in lime some of the lime of her own teeth and bones is taken out and given to the fetus. Her own bone-calcium is depleted and her resistance to disease lowered.
It is an old proverb among mothers, "with every child a tooth." To this may be added, "for every child several cavities." A British investigator, Dr. Ballantyne, in the study of a hundred cases in the Edinburgh Royal Maternity Antenatal Clinic, found that niney-eight per cent. of the pregnant women suffered with "dental caries or infection." Ninety-three per cent of this number had had one or more extractions. More than half (53%) of these patients were under twenty five years of age. Almost as high percentages of carious teeth have been noted in pregnant women in some of our American clinics.
Of British man-power during the recent war, it is said:-- "Of every nine men of military age in Great Britain on the average three were perfectly fit and healthy; two were on a definitely infirm plane of health and strength) three could almost with Justice be described as physical wrecks; and the remaining man as a chronic invalid.
Our own men were little if any better. British and American women are as bad off, if not worse, physically as the men. How are such degenerate specimens to produce normal healthy children? How are they to be helped by serums and vaccines, that only add to the degeneracy, or by drugs and operations, which cripple and maim them still more? "Pink pills and patch work" can never remedy so fundamental a defect as all investigations reveal. We must go back to fundamentals or give up in despair.
Dr. Percy Howe, of the Forsyth Dental Laboratories, Harvard University, ran a series of articles in the Dental Digest, in 1927. The quotations from him, in this chapter, are taken from this series. Dr. Howe has conducted elaborate experimental studies of dental caries (ulcerous inflammation of bones and teeth), pyorrhea and other tooth troubles, with particular reference to the dietary factor in these conditions. He found, as was previously well known, that animals fed upon their natural diet, have good teeth; but when fed upon the deficient diet of civilization develop all the tooth troubles of civilized man. If the diet is made worse the teeth are made worse. A normal diet, (experimental) assures the development of normal teeth, dental arches, bones, etc. He has fully confirmed the Hygienists contentions in this respect.
Dr. Howe declares:-- "The deficiencies which manifest themselves in the dental apparatus of the child are generally, in part at least, results, of deficiencies in the diet of the mother before the child is born and wrong feeding of the infant. It is more and more the duty of our profession to take care of the dental condition of the expectant mother. The diet which will protect the teeth against the heavy demands of this period is the very diet to supply materials for the bones and teeth of the foetus."