Health Hints for the Home: ‘Discourage the continuous eating of sweets and bits and scraps of food’

The seventh of our series looking at the eight ‘Health Hints for the Home’ guidelines sent to Irish households in 1953. This week: Dental health

The Department of Health’s package of eight leaflets distributed to Irish households in 1953.

The Department of Health’s package of eight leaflets distributed to Irish households in 1953.

 

In the mid 1950s, the Department of Health circulated an envelope of eight pamphlets to houses countrywide, with an accompanying letter from minister for health James Ryan. These “Health Hints for the Home” offer an insight into the chief public health concerns – and contemporary medical advice – of that decade. Though some of the advice is now obsolete – even dangerous – some remains relevant today.

The seventh of these leaflets discussed dental health.

Your Children’s Teeth

Most children are provided with strong and healthy teeth. “Soft” teeth occur only in rare cases where early fevers have caused pitting of tooth surfaces, but normal children should have normal teeth – where they have not, the parents should examine their own consciences.

If a child suffers from bad teeth, the fault is not in the teeth themselves, but generally in the type of food he eats. Our grandparents had sound teeth, because they ate a simple, natural diet. Their bread was mainly of whole-meal, oaten, and barely flour; it required more chewing, more mixing with the fluids of the mouth, and better preparation before swallowing, than the refined breads of to-day. Whole-meal breads had more food value. They also helped to develop the jaws and teeth to their natural size and regularity.

What to avoid

Today, children are constantly eating softened, sweetened, refined, de-natured foods. No matter how pure such foods as confectionary, biscuits, cakes, jams, pastries, and sweets may be, they are bad for the teeth. These foods tend to form a sticky paste in the mouth which clings to tooth surfaces and provides a cover for the acid-forming process which starts dental decay.

If eating such foods is limited to meal times, and the teeth get a chance to clean themselves in between, there is much less danger of decay. But the continuous eating of such foods between meals is sure to cause the teeth to decay.

What to do

Care of your children’s teeth is largely a matter of common sense. These simple rules should be followed:
1) Give plain, wholesome food, and avoid excess of highly sweetened additions like sugar, jams and confectionery.
2) Discourage the continuous eating of sweets and bits and scraps of food between meals.
3) Encourage drinking or rinsing with water AFTER meals. Rinsing the mouth with plain water alone will do much to prevent decayed teeth.
4) Last thing at night, INSIST that teeth are washed, brushed, and rinsed. On no account permit eating of food or sweets afterwards in bed.
5) Take or send your children to the Dentist at least once a year, whether they have any dental complaints or not. Routine visits are easier on the parents, the child, and the dentist, and they are less expensive in the long run.

Remember

The health of your children’s teeth depends on our own choice between routine care, foolish indulgence, and damaging neglect.

Health Hints for the home
Part 1: The menace of diphtheria
Part 2: If your child has mumps

Part 3: Flies on food
Part 4: Pain in the throat
Part 5: Coughs in Children
Part 6: Whooping gasp for air
Part 7: Dental health
Part 8: Worms in children

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