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Hello everyone.  I am a new poster here. I am an historian who is doing research on dental health in WW1. I read three threads in this forum yesterday (they were actually written over ten years ago), which have proved to be very useful in terms of some practical matters of dental care and dental hygiene in the field, as well as some anacdotal information of just how bad soldiers' teeth were.

In starting this thread, I hope that it can be a place where members can discuss dental health issues with me, or possibly point me in the direction of sources and further information. I am keen to find the location of the recruitment causes of rejection tables, for example, which someone has posted on an old thread, but there is no reference to where I could find the original. I am also keen to know if anyone has any information on the Silver Thimble Fund, and the Ivory Cross National Dental Aid, as I am researching the role of voluntary aid in dental health matters on the Home Front.

In return for any help provided by your good selves, I would be more than happy to contribute to the website The Long, Long Trail, perhaps by writing a piece on my research in the form of a blog, for all members to read.

Many thanks in advance for reading, and any information you can provide. :D

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Hello HF1972 and welcome to the Forum!

 

I'm not a medical specialist, but I have been struck by the frequency of comments on the state of recruits' teeth as recorded during their initial medical examination.  The surviving individual soldiers files in categories WO 363 ("Burnt papers") and WO 364 (Pension papers) would be a good place to start if you need to sample a large series.  The files do record dental work done subsequent to enlistment as well (extractions, dental plates).  

 

Men who were rejected on dental grounds might be harder to pin down, since by definition they didn't get enlisted and their papers would have been handed back to them with a sort of "Presented himself for enlistment but was rejected on medical grounds" stamp.  Such rejection notes were sought by some men in order to show to those who baited them with "why aren't you in khaki?" jibes.  Medical standards altered during the war, so that a dental or other cause of rejection in 1914 might be deemed acceptable by 1916.

 

Lots more specialists here who can give you better guidance than I, but I look forward to reading any conclusions you might have come to.

 

Clive 

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Steven Broomfield
1 hour ago, clive_hughes said:

 

 

Men who were rejected on dental grounds might be harder to pin down, since by definition they didn't get enlisted and their papers would have been handed back to them with a sort of "Presented himself for enlistment but was rejected on medical grounds" stamp.  

Clive 

My father's father was discharged on medical grounds (not, admittedly, dental) and his papers survive at Kew. Handwritten across his discharge sheet is something about discharged under Section something-or-another, para whatever as "Unlikely ever to make an efficient soldier", under which is written "Flat feet and hammer toes". Is it possible some dental discharges might be similar?

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There are various mentions of make-do-and-mend denture repairs, odd denture losses, etc, in contemporary reports in the Journal of the RN Medical Service. If you haven't found those in your sweep so far it's probably worth searching the "Ships and Navies" forum as I think I posted some of them.

 

seaJane

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Many thanks for the warm welcome clive_hughes.

I understand that there was not actually a dental standard set until after WW1, and, as you correctly point out, as the recruitment needs increased, down went the perceived standards to be military fit for service. Thank you for the suggestions on individual records at the TNA, there could be a case study in there for me!

I have seemed to locate some better data this morning on the percentages of dental rejections over the period 1893 to 1926, which is possibly as detailed as I need in terms of this research.

Steven Broomfield, you make a good point about discharge vs initial rejection, this is something that I need to look into. I believe from my initial research that the RAMC brought in a tiered medical inspection system, later in the war, so that some recruits would be sent on to initial training, on the condition they received dental treatment, and be reinspected before being sent abroad. Then once detatched, they could be sent home again, and there are some stats of that nature which have come to light this morning.

seaJane, I am so glad that you left a comment. Thanks for signposting the way to some more info. I have been looking at just the Army, but there is also the Admiralty to consider! I know that both were involved in the Interdeparmental Committee for Physical Deterioration (1904-5) and I will take a look...

 

 

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6 hours ago, Steven Broomfield said:

discharged under Section something-or-another, para whatever as "Unlikely ever to make an efficient soldier"

Para 392, section (iii), King's Regulations.

 

Ron

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48 minutes ago, Ron Clifton said:

Para 392, section (iii), King's Regulations.

 

Ron

Thanks for the clarification of this quote Ron!

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1 hour ago, David Filsell said:

I seem to have read that those in the forceswho needed dentures had to pay at for them

This is an interesting issue David, because as far as I have found out thus far, one of the ways of dealing with really bad teeth before the war, was that of a full extraction, and then dentures. There are some contentious issues raised in the RAMC associated with soldiers 'expecting dentures' as part of their duty to the country. However, this was criticised in the Journal of the RAMC in 1907 by one Army medic who claimed that dentures were a luxury item, and drain on the public purse!

My first post mentions the Ivory Cross National Dental Aid Fund, which was preceeded by the Soldiers and Sailors National Dental Aid fund, which began in 1914 to help fund dental treatment and the cost of dentures. The War Office took over responsibility for funding in 1915.

 

 

I am keen to know about toothbrushes. I am struggling to find any mention of them in the official documents. I feel as if they were a comfort sent directly from home. Anyone seen any mention of toothbrushes?

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6 hours ago, seaJane said:

There are various mentions of make-do-and-mend denture repairs, odd denture losses, etc, in contemporary reports in the Journal of the RN Medical Service. If you haven't found those in your sweep so far it's probably worth searching the "Ships and Navies" forum as I think I posted some of them.

 

seaJane

I found all the JRNMS, with full access here: http://www.jrnms.com/

 

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The following quote is from my great uncle's diary:

 

July 31, 1918 Went to Harponville, met Lieut. Murphy, a U.S.A. dentist. Made engagement to have teeth pulled. Tea with “C” battery.

Aug. 1, 1918 Very little doing all day. Rather fed up.

Aug. 2, 1918 Went to dentist, had two teeth filled. Almost killed me. Later went to Divisional concert “Welsh Wails”1, darn good show. Rained like fury all way home. 

 

Ann

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Hi,

 

27 minutes ago, HF1972 said:

I am keen to know about toothbrushes. I am struggling to find any mention of them in the official documents. I feel as if they were a comfort sent directly from home. Anyone seen any mention of toothbrushes?

 

Post #5 (and the attached image) in this thread may be of some relevance. It intimates that a toothbrush may have been part of a standard issue 'holdall'.

 

In terms of general background to the issue of teeth/dentistry, I wonder if there is anything of use in the journals of the RAMC, or in the archive of the Wellcome Library.

 

Regards

Chris

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2 hours ago, David Filsell said:

I seem to have read that those in the forceswho needed dentures had to pay at for them

 

This memoir suggests otherwise:

"There was a tall, oldish man in my platoon who had been fixed up at the base with a set of false teeth.

Poor Mac was given to fits of sneezing and when this happened his Army teeth generally went flying.  I was next to him on the fire-step at stand-to one night.  Suddenly Mac made a queer half-strangled noise.

Then I heard him mutter, "Oh, hell!" and knew he'd lost his teeth.  We fumbled among the sandbags, but it was quite a time before a Verey light revealed to me the lower set some distance over the parapet.

"'Anks," mumbled the toothless Mac, pocketing the dentures.  Then, as a kind of afterthought: "'Sall so dam' shilly, isn't it ?""

http://www.firstworldwar.com/diaries/trenchesatvimyridge.htm

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5 hours ago, HF1972 said:

I found all the JRNMS, with full access here: http://www.jrnms.com/

 

Perhaps I should have mentioned that - I am their proofreader and historical articles referee, after all!

 

Unfortunately I haven't had time to follow up, and unfortunately also the archive.org images aren't searchable, unless the situation has changed. The main articles are indexed, but what might also be useful are the [not indexed] extracts from Admiralty Orders printed after the Service News section in each issue from about 1916, which give details of medical and related Orders.

 

We have a history of the Dental Branch on the shelves - I'll try to remember to share details next week.

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Mr 1792,

I am no expert on the topic - it was something I re or mis remembered from somewhere .

On toothbrushes I have no idea beyond the fact that my latest overpriced dentists has new ideas the way one should brush one's teeth and asked "Oh, do you want an implant for that missing tooth. Kerching. (its been missing for 20 years or so. He was unamused when asked if his Ferrari was due dfor service.

Regards

David

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I find I have these two images, unfortunately not attributed, on my PC. The printed article I can say is one of two particular JRNMS ones, but the other I have clean forgotten the source of - sorry!

 

sJ

Dental loss WW1.JPG

Will upload the other later :)

 

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Dental work WW1.JPG

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Hello seaJane

 

Thank you so much for your uploads! they are both brilliant and incredibly useful. I can probably do a text search on the JRNMS journal article, or if you have a good idea which, then I can search through using the link I put up last week...

I have found, so far, there to be some mixed views over dentures. In the case of the letter above, it confirms that some soldiers did receive dentures on the state, and this fits in with what I have researched so far in terms of the date. It would be good to know the exact source, but it gives me some hope that there are letters and stories like this out there, and this is just what this part of my research needs. Reading the rules and regulations on dental history in the forces is all well and good, but it is the lived experience that I am always aiming to find in my historical work.

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On 11/11/2016 at 20:44, Beechhill said:

 

This memoir suggests otherwise:

"There was a tall, oldish man in my platoon who had been fixed up at the base with a set of false teeth.

Poor Mac was given to fits of sneezing and when this happened his Army teeth generally went flying.  I was next to him on the fire-step at stand-to one night.  Suddenly Mac made a queer half-strangled noise.

Then I heard him mutter, "Oh, hell!" and knew he'd lost his teeth.  We fumbled among the sandbags, but it was quite a time before a Verey light revealed to me the lower set some distance over the parapet.

"'Anks," mumbled the toothless Mac, pocketing the dentures.  Then, as a kind of afterthought: "'Sall so dam' shilly, isn't it ?""

http://www.firstworldwar.com/diaries/trenchesatvimyridge.htm

Thanks for this link Beechhill. It was a problem having dentures, wasn't it?!

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On 11/12/2016 at 10:31, David Filsell said:

Mr 1792,

I am no expert on the topic - it was something I re or mis remembered from somewhere .

On toothbrushes I have no idea beyond the fact that my latest overpriced dentists has new ideas the way one should brush one's teeth and asked "Oh, do you want an implant for that missing tooth. Kerching. (its been missing for 20 years or so. He was unamused when asked if his Ferrari was due dfor service.

Regards

David

Thank you for your reply David. It's interesting the way we think about our dental health now, compared to a century ago. The idea of replacing teeth is not new of course, but now we have implant technology over dentures. Dentures were considered a luxury by some a century ago. This is why so many people tell me that their auntie had a set of dentures as her wedding present. There is some dissent that I have come across over the funding of dentures, essentially for the lower ranks I feel. That's just got me to thinking about Dr Barton in the letter above, he would have been a high ranking officer I presume?

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On 11/11/2016 at 19:52, clk said:

Hi,

 

 

Post #5 (and the attached image) in this thread may be of some relevance. It intimates that a toothbrush may have been part of a standard issue 'holdall'.

 

In terms of general background to the issue of teeth/dentistry, I wonder if there is anything of use in the journals of the RAMC, or in the archive of the Wellcome Library.

 

Regards

Chris

Thank you for the link Chris. It looks like they did have a toothbrush issued, I will have to follow this up, Of course owning a toothbrush and using it are two different matters entirely!

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On 11/11/2016 at 19:25, ackimzey said:

The following quote is from my great uncle's diary:

 

July 31, 1918 Went to Harponville, met Lieut. Murphy, a U.S.A. dentist. Made engagement to have teeth pulled. Tea with “C” battery.

Aug. 1, 1918 Very little doing all day. Rather fed up.

Aug. 2, 1918 Went to dentist, had two teeth filled. Almost killed me. Later went to Divisional concert “Welsh Wails”1, darn good show. Rained like fury all way home. 

 

Ann

Thank you for this diary entry Ann. Glad the poor chap got to have some fun after the fillings! It does show that teeth were being looked after pallatively which is useful.

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Killer Teeth

 

teeth 1.JPG

Trooper  John William George Newman

1986 Royal Horse Guards

Died 8/3/1915

Brompton Cemetery

 

teeth 2.JPG

Private William Holby Habershon

25133 11th Bn  Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Died 4/9/1915

Beighton (St Marys Churchyard

 

 

Regards Ray

 

 

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Fantastic newspaper clippings Ray, thank you. Can you remember the newspapers that they came from? I would like to use these. Dentures are a hazard, aren't they?

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