The relation of biological chemistry to dentistry, the causes and treatment of the deformities of the teeth and jaws, the relation of mastication to the efficiency of digestion, and the interrelation of dental caries to other diseases, are cited as among the most pressing problems for dental research in an article by Dr. L. W. Baker, D.M.D. '98, Professor of Orthodontia at the Harvard Dental School, appearing in the current issue of the Harvard Alumni Bulletin.
Dr. Baker declares that the great advances in dentistry in the last sixty years, during which dental education has been an integral part of Harvard University, have been brought about primarily through a broad application of the principles of biology, chemistry and physics to a type of health service that years ago was almost entirely dependent upon mere mechanics and the development of mechanical ability in the practitioner.
These advances, great as they have been appear to him as scattered contributions to the knowledge of a profession which will carry on in the future a concerted research on the interrelation of health in the mouth and general health in the body.
Bad Teeth Infect Body
Past advances, Dr. Baker's articles says, "may be traced largely to two discoverers: first, that teeth are vitally connected with the two great circulatory systems of the body; and second, that bacteria transplanted from roots of diseased teeth into laboratory animals bring about serious infection in the vital organs. The first conclusion came from the laboratories of eminent dental investigators and was observed through an application of the biological principle called 'vital standing.' The second was discovered by medical pathologists in their search for the effects of focal infection a research carried on in various parts of the world, with especially distinctive work done in this country at the Mayo Clinic and elsewhere."
Continuing with what research in dentistry has accomplished in the past and what lies before the profession in the future, Dr. Baker says:
Much Research In Field
"President Lowell in an address before the Harrlet Newell Lowell Society for Dental Research, a society founded to further the spirit of research among the student body, stated that the greatest hope for the future of dentistry lies in research. In this field, the dental profession, young as it is, is justly proud of its achievements particularly in the war against suffering. The pioneer work of Dr. Horace Wells with nitrous oxide, and Dr. William Morton with ether, both endeavoring to control pain in dental operations, led to the development of surgical anaesthesia.
"The harrassing pain from the fifth pair of cranial nerves has always appealed to the sympathies of the dental practitioner and stimulated him to conquer it. That the profession is slowly but surely achieving this task is indicated by the great progress that has been made toward clearing the trail blazed by these two public benefactors. Here at Harvard, notable advances have been made in the use of nitrous oxide and oxygen, and especially in the technique of administering local anaesthetics.
Many Problems Unsolved
"Problems of towering importance still stand before the dental profession for solution. Why are advanced cases of pyorrhea frequently associated with heart lesions? Why do children crippled by contracted and misplaced jaws, when relieved of these afflictions, generally put on weight and exhibit better mentality? Why does pregnancy usually interfere with the calcification balance, and why do women, particularly of the poorer classes, at this critical time often suffer severely from galloping decay'? These are a few of the many questions before the earnest investigator who never tires of asking why! There is still much to be learned about the causes and treatment of the deformities of the teeth and treatment of the deformities of the teeth and jaws, about the relation of biological chemistry to dentistry, about the relation of mastication to the efficiency of digestion, and about the interrelation of dental caries to other diseases."