Apart from decomposing food and stagnant septic matter from saliva injured by indigestion, and by sputum which collects in the healthy mouth, there are in many infected mouths pus, exudations from the irritated and inflamed gum margins, gaseous emanations from decaying teeth, putrescent pulp tissue, tartar, and chemical poisons. Every spray from such a mouth in coughing, sneezing, or even talking or reading, is laden with microbes which vitiate the air to be breathed by others. Indigestion from imperfect mastication and imperfect salivation (themselves often due solely to bad teeth) is far less serious than indigestion from germ infection. Germs taken into the stomach can so change the composition of saliva (a natural disinfectant when healthy) as to render it no longer able to kill germs. Indigestion may result in excess of uric acid and toxic material, so that the individual becomes subject to gout and rheumatism, which in turn frequently destroy the bony support of the teeth and bring about Riggs's Disease. The last named is a prevalent and disfiguring disease, whose symptom is receding gums. The irritating toxins deposited on the teeth cause inflammation of the tissues at the gum margins. The gums withdraw more and more from sections of the teeth; the poisons get underneath and work back toward the roots; the infection increases and hastens the loosening of the teeth. I know of a man who had all of his teeth extracted at twenty-one years of age, because he was told that this was the only treatment for this disease, which was formerly thought to be incurable. Yet thorough cleansing and removal of this matter from under the edges of the gums, disinfection, a few visits to the dentist, will stop the recession but cannot regain lost ground.
Among those who regularly use the toothbrush, instinct, comfort, or display is the ruling motive, while a small percentage have evolved to the anti-nuisance stage, where the æsthetic standard of their group forbids any member to neglect his teeth. The anti-slum and pro-slum motives for mouth cleanliness and dental sanitation have been awakened in but one or two places. A significant pro-slum activity is the dental clinic organized by forty volunteer dentists, acting for an industrial school maintained by the New York Children's Aid Society.
New York Children'S Aid Society'S Dental Clinic For School Children
Here 550 children have been examined, 447 teeth extracted, 284 teeth filled, 200 teeth treated for diseased pulp (and only 24 sets cleaned), 40 dentists taking turns in giving time to this work. The equipment cost but $239; cards and stationery, $72; incidentals, $33. The principal attends the clinic, because in her presence no child is willing to confess fear or unwillingness. To supplement this work, the dentists have prepared for free distribution a leaflet which tells in short, clear sentences how to care for the teeth.
Such a leaflet should be given out at dispensaries, hospitals, dental offices, schools, and from many Sunday schools and missions.
 The Teeth and Their Care, by Thaddeus P. Hyatt, D.D.S., is a short, concise treatment of the principles of dental sanitation.
The time for the schools to begin is when the child is first registered. Examination and reexamination must be accompanied by explanation of the serious disadvantages of neglected teeth, and the physical, social, and economic advantages of clean, sound teeth. Instruction at school must be followed by education of parents. The school or health authorities should examine the teeth of all children before issuing work certificates. Finally, the dental, medical, and nursing professions and the press must be enlisted in the school's campaign for dental hygiene. The Dental Hygiene Council of Massachusetts should be copied in all states.
A preliminary examination of teeth can be made by parent or teacher. Crooked, loose, dirty, or black teeth or receding gums can be detected by a layman's naked eye. In fact, children can be interested in finding the most obvious defects in their own or their brothers' teeth. There could be no better first lesson than to ask each pupil to look in a hand mirror and to count each tooth obviously needing a cleaning or a filling. The most urgent need can thus be ascertained without expert aid. But because parent, teacher, or child cannot discover defects does not prove that dental care is not imperative; hence the importance of examination by a dentist or by a physician competent to discover dental needs. If a private, public, or parochial school has no paid visiting dentist, a zealous school officer can, at least in large towns, persuade one or more dentists or physicians to make a few first tests to confirm the teacher's findings, and to persuade the community that regular examination and reexamination are necessary and a saving of pain, beauty, and money.