The teeth of Andover children in the early 1900s were a long way off from orthodontia and frequent visits to the dentist. Surveys conducted in public schools revealed that by age 15 or 16, over 50% of the teeth of the average schoolchild were diseased.
However, knowledge was not lacking about the causes and effects of tooth decay. Dentists in Berlin were able to identify microorganisms responsible for tooth decay and even knew that these organisms feed on food molecules lodged in the tooth. They reccomended brushing the teeth once a day, in the morning, to prevent this.
Other dentists of the era hypothesized about the relationship between healthy teeth and children’s growth and development, and even tried to link healthy teeth to how well children performed in school. However, their theory was shattered when they found that that tooth decay was about even in “bright” and normal students. They might have gone a bit too far in trying to explain away this evidence by suggesting that bright children must have poor teeth due to the expension of nervous energy. Parents, they cautioned, should refrain from putting too much pressure on their bright children to do well in school, especially when the child’s teeth are still developing!