Diet in the Prevention of Dental Decay
Is there any mother who would not, if she could ensure a strong beautiful set of teeth for each of her boys and girls? Alfred Owre, dean of the dental department of the University of Minnesota feels strongly about the possibility of keeping teeth in a perfectly sound and healthy condition throughout life. He emphasizes the necessity of using hard foods, especially during the period when the bones of the jaws are developing in order to bring into full pay the organs of mastication, and he also emphasizes the necessity of eating plenty of coarse, fibrous food to keep the teeth well polished and to wear down irregularities of their surfaces.
Professor Henry Pierce Pickerill, director of the dental department of the University of Otago, and one of the foremost English authorities on the subject, agrees with Dr. Owre, on the points mentioned, but he emphasizes also the importance of keeping the mouth clean of sticky, sweet, acid-forming debris of food by selecting a preponderance of foods which are anti-acid, and eating at the end of meals such fibrous foods as celery, raw carrots, or apples. He calls attention to the scouring effect which these foods exert under the two-hundred-pound pressure of the normal bite, and their tendency to increase the quantity and quality of the flow of cleansing saliva.
It is only the residue of sweet and starch foods that is dangerous, particles of meat and other tissue-forming foods are not being fermentable or acid-forming. Our first safeguard then, lies in keeping the mouth as free as possible from sweet or starch particles of food. The second safeguard, and one which has been almost entirely neglected hitherto, lies in promoting, by a correct choice and sequence of food at meal time, a strong flow of highly alkaline saliva to neutralize the acid as it forms.
But it is long before a child begins to take solid food that the task of providing a strong set of teeth must be begun. Dr. J. I. Durand has proved that breast-fed babies stand the best chance of developing strong and beautiful teeth later in life. Babies fed on properly modified cow’s milk stand the next best chance. And babies fed on sweetened condensed milk are under the severest handicap. Moreover, Dr. Durance recommends the early addition of meat, fruits, and vegetables with their mineral constituents to the child’s diet. Orange-juice, he declares, may be given in small quantities any time after the first month, and vegetables, fruits, and meats, also in small amounts as early as the sixth or seventh month.
Then, too in babyhood the infant’s jaw is developing and it is very important that the child should be given an opportunity to exercise the muscles of mastication through chewing on tough crusts, tough strips of meat, bones, and other hard and tough articles. Otherwise the jaw does not develop properly and provide sufficient room for the teeth. When a jaw is too small the teeth are inclined to be crowded and irregular. This affects not only the child’s good looks, but it makes it easier for pieces of food to lodge between the teeth.
Good Housekeeping (January, 1918)