Banishing the cobwebs
In the early 20th century, the parlous state of Britons’ teeth gave the government a rude awakening
By the 1920s, the British government was more alive than ever to the poor condition of the country’s teeth – chiefly as a result of the Boer War (1899–1902) and the First World War. “Many of the men signing up to fight were being rejected purely on the grounds of poor dental health [often due to the financial costs of treating them],” states Scott-Dearing. “The government realised it needed to take action.”
A series of public health campaigns were launched, pushing a preventative approach to oral health with an emphasis on beginning a good dental routine in childhood – as seen in this poster from 1945, by Abram Games, exhorting Britons to “brush the cobwebs away”.
“Companies quickly jumped on the dental bandwagon, creating posters advertising the perfect pearly white smile,” adds Scott-Dearing.