Category Archives: Cavities

It’s all in the water

Public water fluoridation was introduced to Australia in 1953, in the town of Beaconsfield, Tasmania.


Source: High resolution mapping of reticulated water fluoride in Western Australia: opportunities to improve oral health.

Al-Bloushi NS, Trolio R, Kruger E, Tennant M.

Aust Dent J. 2012 Dec;57(4):504-10


The Wild Wild West

When Buffalo Bill was 50, his teeth were well aligned and without cavities, but worn almost down to the gum line. This, according to a professor of dentistry at the University of Otago  (Dr Pickerill), was a great example of leading the life of a normal savage who ate primitive foods…


Source: Albany Advertiser, Saturday 3 July 1920

All I Want for Christmas…

Defects in the quantity or quality of enamel (outer tooth coating) that occur during the development of baby teeth indicate a risk for enamel defects in the adult teeth.*  This, screening, and the early detection of tooth decay, are important reasons to take baby for a dental check up by his/her first birthday.^



*Prevalence of demarcated hypomineralisation defects in second primary molars in Iraqi children.

Ghanim A, Manton D, Mariño R, Morgan M, Bailey D.

Int J Paediatr Dent. 2013 Jan;23(1):48-55.

^AAPD. Policy on Early Childhood Caries (ECC): Classifications, Consequences and Preventive Strategies (2011)

Vitamin Value

It is probable that Vitamin D supplementation reduces the risk of tooth decay in children….


Source: Vitamin D and multiple health outcomes: umbrella review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of observational studies and randomised trials

Authors: Evropi Theodoratou, Ioanna Tzoulaki, Lina Zgaga, John P A Ioannidis

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 1 April 2014)



Beyond the Call of Duty

Riva Davidovici was a young Romanian dentist.  She attended to Margeurite Switz, the beautiful English wife of an American Colonel. The patient’s cavities were filled as planned.

Unfortunately for Dr Davidovici, Mrs Switz involved her in the trial. It wasn’t that she was unhappy with the treatment; far from it. However, to save her own skin, she revealed all.

You see, the colonel and his wife were part of an extensive spy gang operating in France, Britain and the USA, on behalf of Russia and Germany. They were arrested on charges of having tampered with French naval documents after secret plans were stolen from the French War Office.

How was the dentist involved? Well, she filled Mrs Switz’s cavities with temporary stoppings containing microscopic photographs of the plans…

Source: The Maitland Daily Mercury, Thurs 4 Apr 1935

culture club

Walter William Skeat was an anthropologist who in 1900 published his observations on the aborigines of Selangor island (today’s Malaysia). One of the group’s many rituals was “tooth filing”. Yes, “tooth filing”. This process was a rite of passage for the young ladies into womanhood. The community’s “dentist” slowly filed the maidens’ front teeth (without any local anaesthetic!) down to the gum line and the remaining tooth stump was subsequently smoothed by rubbing it with sand.

Perhaps these islanders of yesteryear had greater foresight than we do today.  I can hear the gasps of horror at this assertion. The thought of such heathen acts performed on those poor girls! I suppose their consolation was that the ordeal was quickly over with.

In today’s civilised society, our modern lifestyle can produce pretty much the same effect on our teeth, the differences being that it is a chronic and costly process, and often self-inflicted. For instance, most of us are aware in this age of information wealth, that besides fixed intrinsic risk factors, controllable behaviours like “sugar grazing”, drug and alcohol abuse, and poor oral hygiene practices lead to tooth and gum rot, and their associated adverse symptoms.

Yet we still engage in these activities.  Why do we choose to fulfill this democratic right? Do we lack the self-control to deny processed foods? Are we so time poor that we find it difficult to cook a nutritious meal, or are we simply lazy? Are we brainwashed in our mother’s womb by fads and advertorials? Is the need to rebel an inborn human quality? Perhaps we tend to console ourselves with the notion of having access to the best dental facilities, equipment and treatments available in countering any complications; someone else will fix it (the most common reason for childhood hospitalisation in Australia is tooth decay*).

Well, managing adverse dental outcomes may not be so simple. Teeth can in some ways be likened to cars. When brand new, we tend to drive them hard and fast, and we can be, as Dr Phil says, “in denial” about anything bad happening to them. However, once damaged, even with ongoing repairs, they are never the same again, and are eventually thrown into the trash heap. We can always buy a new car, but substituting a body part with a natural replacement still remains out of our grasp…well, at least for a few years yet…


*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australian Hospital Statistics 2008–09. Health Services Series no. 17. Cat. no. HSE 84. Canberra: AIHW, 2010.