By John H. Gunter, DDS, MD
Summary: In this thought-provoking chapter from 1943’s A Guide to Practical Nutrition, physician and dentist John Gunter connects the dots between malnutrition and tooth decay. “It is generally known that inadequate nutrition predisposes to lowered resistance to bacterial invasion,” he writes, and such invasion includes the attack of oral bacteria on teeth. Indeed, he notes, tooth decay and periodontal disease tend to flourish only in populations subsisting on foods of “deteriorated biological value”—that is, foods deficient in vitamin and mineral complexes—such as white flour, white sugar, and the other industrially manufactured foods of modern civilization. Dr. Gunter proceeds to detail the roles played by various nutrients in preventing not just tooth decay but oral disease in general, a list headlined by the vitamins A, B1, C, and D as well as the minerals calcium and phosphorus. While dentistry today sells tooth decay as a story of defenseless teeth being attacked by sugar-loving bacteria, Dr. Gunter’s article affirms what he and many other nutrition-minded dentists of the early twentieth century knew firsthand: a well fed tooth is well protected. From A Guide to Practical Nutrition, 1943. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 115A.