Conservation of Dental Health

By HERBERT H. SCHMITT, D.M.D.
Portland, Oregon
From a health or biologic standpoint, it is generally recognized by those who have given the matter some thought that one of the important things in life is to supervise our daily living in accordance with the regulations of Nature governing our physical and mental existence and good health. Until more people recognize this fundamental fact and act on it, the desired health conditions cannot be attained and the helpful values available through the aid of health science will be of little use to them nor would health regulations on the statute books do very much good in this respect.
Thus far the art of living properly, and thereby secure the conservation of health including sound dental health, has failed to arouse sufficient interest in the minds of the large portion of the people. They are still too much interested in a false standard of living, by following the path of least health effort which leads to health troubles, and place too much trust in cures that cannot be realized. We devote millions of dollars for relief of distressed persons and we educate the children so that they may become useful members of society, yet we continue to overlook that part of the education which furnishes a true basis for good health and sound dental conditions and a proper environment of daily living.
The idea of the conservation of health means little to the average person. Somehow we all fail to recognize fully at times that it is contrary to the Laws of Nature that any human being should willingly or otherwise be subjected to a condition, or an environment, that is conducive to ill health and mental weakness; but this is being done continually. This applies especially to woman, because the mother is a more important factor in the present and future health of the race. The modern nervous strain on woman, especially if employed for wages, is often too severe; and thus her offspring will become affected which would have some effect on future generations as pertains to their mental and physical welfare.
In the present era, the effect of past indifference to various menacing influences on health is becoming apparent. Ailments such as heart failure, diabetes, cancer, tuberculosis, infected dental conditions, nervous disorders, and so on, thrive largely because of the disregard by people to sufficient interest in the conservation of health, especially during early childhood, something must be done that will accomplish it automatically and in spite of those who would neglect or decry measures designed for their own welfare or that of their offspring.
If we stop to consider that lower animals escape the destructive ailments common to human beings, we cannot help but realize that we must give stricter attention to the nature of our food, occupation, and environment. This objective can best be acocplished through the aid of health or biologic science.
Dental Health Not Improved
In recent years decades certain progress has been made in promoting certain health conditions among the masses in all civilized countries. This was made possible by better control over contagious disease through quarantine, improvement in sanitation through better sewage disposal, better inspection of meats and other foods, especially canned foods. This was brought about through the application of biologic science working through trained men and women; and these and other similar trained workers are constantly advancing certain new methods of combating various ways by which certain diseases may spread or are brought about; but all these measures have not improved the dental health condition of the masses very much.
In spite of this amazing progress, individual man has taken too little interest in the matter. The general public does not concern itself with the matter and regards it as belonging to the health professions; but thereby penalizes itself because it does not comprehend its value and importance. Many prefer to let things go along until something happens to their health or teeth and then expect cures at one through nostrums or palliative treatment.
They have not yet learned to realize that the cure of any complicated disease, including dental disease, is very difficult, even if you know how and under favorable circumstances: and if life is saved or prolonged thereby, the ailment often does not have the affected person in as good health as was expected, because in such cases some vital part or function may have become destroyed or weakened which is then beyond the power of biologic science to correct or improve very much.
In health matters there is a lack of understanding by the public of the deep seated origin and complicated nature of dental disease. The fallacy persists that the teeth are merely mechanical units to be cleaned or polished, a matter of appearance, or neglected, as a pair of shoes; and that the teeth have no vital or systemic connection with the complex body itself. The old idea that teeth can be extracted or gotten rid of, or that the loss of teeth is justified for economic reasons, is often based on a mercenary motive, or betrays gross ignorance of dental and physical welfare.
Too Much Indifference
A similar indifference manifested to the vital problem of every day living is a sad comment on our boasted education, culture, intelligence, and advanced civilization. Also, the ruthless loss of the teeth as a possible cure for organic disease in a remote protion of the body is often a delusion to those who have sacrificed their sound teeth for the purpose and is a destructive ideal contrary to that of the dental profession. In the last analysis, the natural teeth and their supporting tissues only can supply the necessary and peculiar form of power to masticate the various foodstuffs as intended by Nature so they will be well digested and the vital parts thereof absorbed and used in the system as a protection against the development of certain body ailments, even dental ailments, and to help conserve the health of future generations.
What might be the possible results of such an attempt at a conservation, you may ask? The economic loss occasioned by illness and consequent unemployment and the expense of treating sick and other defective persons is enormous and beyond determination in the aggregate. If an effective plan of conservation were worked out, it is believed it would result in much less disease, suffering, and fear; better dental health, more happiness and greater enjoyment of life, to say nothing of less poverty, vice, crime, viciousness, and accidents growing out of mental derangements, and perversions resulting from malnutrition, poverty and disease. The actual expense of handling disease that may then occur would be greatly reduced to the large majority of the people and destructive accidents would be lessened, all of which would pay enormous dividends in the form of better and happier living for all. The progress achieved in this country in the art and science pertaining to both the general and dental health is the envy of many other nations of the world, yet there is room for improvements in our present health set-up.
As already indicated, the general and dental health is largely determined by the quality of the food and its proper digestion and use in the body and by environment, or occupation, plus hereditary influences. We owe it to future generations to make provisions now for their physical and mental welfare through hereditary and other influences, by the correction of improper food habits and by modifying the environment, or occupation, so as to safeguard health from the destructive conditions which often are present therein or associated with it.
The abuses in the use of food, specially in babyhood and later childhood, are among the outstanding problems in the program of health conservation of children, including decay of teeth. Ailments arising from improper conditions in our environment, or occupation, and the use of improper foods, plus nervous strain, are among the chief problems to consider in the conservation of adult health, including not only decay of teeth but also other dental ailments particularly the one called pyorrhea, or paradentosis.

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