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A Handbook of Health by Woods Hutchinson

Whenever a tooth becomes idle and useless


It

is most important to keep the nasal passages clear and free, and the teeth sound and regular by proper dental attention, so that the jaws will grow properly, and each tooth will strike squarely against its fellow in the opposite jaw, and both jaws fit snugly and closely to each other, making the bite firm and clean, and the grinding close and vigorous. If we are mouth-breathers, our jaws will grow out of shape, so that our teeth are crowded and irregular and do not meet each other properly in chewing. Pressure upon the roots of the teeth, from meeting their fellows of the opposite jaw in firm, vigorous mastication, is one of the most important means of keeping them sound and healthy. Whenever a tooth becomes idle and useless, from failing to meet its fellow tooth in the jaw above or below properly, or from having no fellow tooth to meet, it is very likely to begin to decay.

The next important thing in keeping the teeth healthy is to keep them thoroughly clean. The greatest enemies of our teeth are the acids that form in the scraps of food that are left between them after eating. Meats are not so dangerous in this regard as starches and sugars, because the fluids resulting from their decay are alkaline instead of acid; but it is best to keep the teeth clear of scraps of all kinds. This can best be done by the moderate and gentle use of a quill, or _rolled_ wooden tooth-pick, followed by a thorough brushing after each meal with a rather stiff,

firm brush. Then use floss-silk, or linen or rubber threads to "saw" out such pieces as have lodged between the teeth.

This brushing should be given, not merely to the teeth, but to the entire surface of the gums as well; for, as we have seen, it is the gums that make or spoil the health of the teeth, and they, like all other parts of the body, require plenty of exercise and pressure in order to keep them healthy. In the early days of man, when he had no knives and gnawed his meat directly off the bones, and when he cracked nuts and ground all his grain with his teeth, the gums got an abundance of pressure and friction and were kept firm and healthy and red; but now that we take out the bones of the meat and stew or hash it, have all our grain ground, and strip off all the husks of our vegetables and skins of our fruits, though we have made our food much more digestible, we have robbed our gums of a great deal of valuable friction and exercise. The most practical way to make up for this is by vigorous massage and scrubbing with a tooth-brush for five minutes at least three times a day. It will hurt and even make the gums bleed at first; but you will be surprised how quickly they will get used to it, so that it will become positively enjoyable.

[Illustration: A TOOTH-BRUSH DRILL

A school in which the children are taught the importance of using the tooth brush, are supplied with brushes at cost, and required to report both on their care of their teeth and on the condition of the brushes.]

It is good to use some cleansing alkaline powder upon the brush. The old-fashioned precipitated chalk, which makes the bulk of most tooth powders, is very good; but an equally good and much cheaper and simpler one is ordinary baking soda, or saleratus, though this will make the gums smart a little at first. Any powder that contains pumice-stone, cuttle-fish bone, charcoal, or gritty substances of any sort, as many unfortunately do, is injurious, because these scratch the enamel of the teeth and give the acids in the mouth a chink through which they may begin to attack the softer dentine underneath the "glaze" of enamel.


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