Ban­ish­ing the cob­webs

In the early 20th cen­tury, the par­lous state of Bri­tons’ teeth gave the gov­ern­ment a rude awak­en­ing

BBC History Magazine - - A History Of Teeth -

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.

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