Over the weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald published a short commentary on the important of oral health, titled, “Holey Molars.” Far be it from us to give too much criticism to a piece with such a noble goal as encouraging people to take care of their teeth, but there is one fact in the article that deserves a correction. Author Benjamin Law states that “in Australia until the late 1940s, it was considered “posh” to have all your teeth removed and replaced with dentures as an adult, since rotting teeth were considered inevitable.”
Part of this anecdotal assertion is true, but part of it isn’t.
Teeth Removed Routinely Through the 1940s
Law is right that it used to be routine for dentists to pull people’s teeth, but, as we mentioned before, this wasn’t really an upper-class thing, It was related to a dental theory that our teeth served as reservoirs for deadly germs.
As prominent British Physician William Hunter put it in a 1910 speech, dental restorations were “built in, on, and around diseased teeth which form a veritable mausoleum of gold over a mass of sepsis to which there is no parallel in the whole realm of medicine.” Stirring stuff, and it inspired dentists around the world to try to avoid contributing to bodily sickness by pulling all teeth that had been compromised, rather than performing root canals or gum disease treatment. This idea seems to have taken root more firmly in Australia than in other countries.
We know that this was a trend in dentistry that came and passed because edentulism rates for these age cohorts are so much higher than for other cohorts (see here and here). The government report also refers to the sepsis theory, and the higher edentulous rates among rural populations with lower education certainly argues against removing one’s teeth being a “posh” thing to do. Besides, with denture technology of the day, few people would likely choose dentures over their natural teeth. And, even today with advanced FOY Dentures™, <a href=”/service/bps-dentures/”>BPS dentures</a>, and dental implants, your natural teeth are still better.
What about Sepsis?
It’s worth noting that the theory of sepsis hasn’t completely gone away. It’s still being promoted by a certain segment of alternative medicine advocates (see the claim here), and it does seem that there was a grain of truth around which the lie was built. Gum infections can contribute to things like heart disease, but the answer isn’t to pull out all your teeth. This can take your teeth away and leave the infection in place. But properly treating gum disease and infected teeth will preserve your teeth and improve your health.
What’s posh in dentistry has always been to preserve and beautify your natural teeth to the extent possible. If you are looking for that kind of dental care, please call (02) 9686 7375 for an appointment with a Baulkham Hills dentist at My Hills Dentist.