Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

The Northern Command Dental Depot


Guest mruk

Recommended Posts

Please find below a rather lengthy quote of the work carried out at the Northern Command Dental Depot. This is something I've not given much consideration before, but could the Great War have led the way in Forensic and Cosmetic Dentistry? Shattered jaws, and the treatment of disease, being just a couple of examples of the work carried out, each of which must have surely helped to re-build the self-esteem and self-confidence of those who had been badly injured. Any feedback would be most welcome.

Kind Regards,

Dave

THE NORTHERN COMMAND DENTAL DEPOT

As this organisation plays an important part in the rendering fit of a large number of men in the Northern Command, both in training and in hospital, a short description of its origin and work may be of interest.

In April, 1916, owing to the pressing need for extensive and systematic dental treatment of soldiers, hitherto carried out almost entirely by civilian dental surgeons under contract, the War Office requested the D.D.M.S. [then General Kenny] to institute a system whereby the mechanical work required by the troops could be done under Army auspices. Colonel Littlewood was approached, with the view to the establishment in Leeds of the central organisation for this purpose, and he arranged with Major Jamieson that accommodation should be found at East Leeds. Mr. Child, who joined the Hospital in October, 1914, as civilian dental surgeon, was asked to undertake the organisation, and was given a Commission. A small start was made with one room, and a draft of 14 trained dental mechanics arrived from Ripon and other centres. [The Staff now numbers 63, including 10 NCO’s, and an additional workroom has been added]

At first many minor difficulties had to be coped with, notably the supply of boiling water [constantly required] and the necessity of using foot power fro the tedious work of polishing vulcanite plates. After some time, however, a large gas geyser and the installation of electricity made a great improvement in working conditions. All polishing is now done by electric power, and electric light is exclusively used.

The system under which the Depot is worked is as follows: At each of the large camps and centres in the Command are stationed, according to the size of the camp, from one to nine dental officers, who are responsible for the dental treatment of men under their care. When the provision of artificial teeth is necessary to make a man fir for service, the dental officer takes models in plaster of Paris of the man’s mouth, and also the correct biting position of the jaws. The necessary data are then filled in on the Army Form, and the batch of plaster models and Army Forms are sent of broken dentures which require repairing or remodelling. Upon receipt of the models at the Depot. Every case is entered in the ledger, and a number allotted. According to the camp from which the models are received, the case is described by a letter, every camp having its distinctive letter, so that it can be seen at a glance whence a denture originates. This letter and number are indelibly marked in the vulcanite denture by a special process. When it is said that the letters of the alphabet are practically all taken up for this purpose, an idea will be gained of the number of camps in communication with the Depot. By this means the date of making and camp of origin are permanently recorded, and in fact, should the man’s identification disc be lost, when killed or wounded, this would be a means of identification, as the full details of every patient are recorded in the ledger under the letter and number belonging to the case. Of course, the great majority of the work done is ordinary vulcanite work, but occasionally very interesting cases are received for restoration or “Prosthesis” after disease or injury of the jaws. When completed to the satisfaction of the Officer-in-Charge, the work is despatched to the place of origin, and the Dental Officer there adjusts and fit’s the dentures to the patients’ mouths.

Up to the present over 30,000 dentures have passed through the Depot, at an estimated saving to the country of £35,000.”

[Journal of Leeds Territorial Hospitals: April 1918]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In April, 1916, owing to the pressing need for extensive and systematic dental treatment of soldiers, hitherto carried out almost entirely by civilian dental surgeons under contract, the War Office requested the D.D.M.S. [then General Kenny] to institute a system whereby the mechanical work required by the troops could be done under Army auspices.

[Journal of Leeds Territorial Hospitals: April 1918]

Hi Dave

Thanks for posting the above, really interesting.

According to the History of the Royal Army Dental Corps

"In October 1914, during the Battle of the Aisne, it has been recorded that Sir Douglas Haig, then in command of the First Army, was stricken with severe toothache at the height of operations. No dental surgeon was available and it was necessary to summon a French dental surgeon from Paris to attend to him. As a result of this incident the War Office was requested to send dental surgeons to serve in the army areas. Twelve were sent to France in Novemeber 1914, for duty at casualty clearing stations. They were given temporary commissions in the rank of lieutenant (the first time dental surgeons had been commissioned in the British Army) held on the General List and attached to the Royal Army Medical Corps. By the end of 1914, twenty dental surgeons had been appointed, all of whom were serving in France".

It made me smile that dentists were appointed and given temporary commissions because Sir Douglas Haig had a toothache. :D I guess it was lucky that he had a toothache at the beginning of the war and not the end.

Barbara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sounds like one of the first examples of dental records being used to identify a body too, although whether this ever happened in the field is open to question. Prices for dentures have gone up a bit in the last 90 years too!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It made me smile that dentists were appointed and given temporary commissions because Sir Douglas Haig had a toothache. I guess it was lucky that he had a toothache at the beginning of the war and not the end.

I wonder what would have happened if his piles had been playing up?

(fill in the rest yourself)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

. By the end of 1914, twenty dental surgeons had been appointed, all of whom were serving in France".

Barbara

I`ll bet one was posted to GHQ! Probably messed with the Lt Pastry Chef, the Lt Hairdresser, the Lt Masseur, the Lt Manicurist, the Lt Wine Waiter etc. :angry::P Phil B

Link to comment
Share on other sites

http://www.projectfacade.com/index.php

I think that some form of Reconstructive Dentistry was used on these Men

There is also a chapter on reconstructive surgery in a book on WW1 called something like "Staring into Apocalypse" - maddeningly, I can't get the title right enough to find it on Amazon, google or the Forum - can anyone help?

I have to say that, given the suffering a duff tooth can cause, I'm astonished that the army hadn't thought of it years before.

Walrus - you are a bad boy!

Adrian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Walrus is 'a very bad boy' :lol: , but he unwittingly makes a good point about professionals, and the clampdown on fakes and quackery in WW1, including the lotions and potions that were being sold to an unsuspecting public. I'm not sure what would have been used in the event of toothache, clove oil, perhaps, but what magic cures would have been advertised at this time? "Good Boy, Walrus. Good Boy" :lol:

Cheers,

Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have to say that, given the suffering a duff tooth can cause, I'm astonished that the army hadn't thought of it years before.

Walrus - you are a bad boy!

Adrian

Apparently they did. The history states

"After the South African War eight army dental surgeons were appointed to commands at home and in 1910 three were posted to military establishments in India, one of whom, J.P. Helliwell, was later to become the first Director of the Army Dental Service. They were supplied with satifactory equipment, but they held no army rank, had no uniform and no military status. They were authorised to supply dentures necessary for mastication only to 'sergeants of good character'. This scheme, which might have led to the formation of a permanent dental service, was short-lived, the eight dental surgeons at home being disbanded in 1908. Subsequently, dental treatment for serving soldiers and recruits was carried out by civilian dental practitioners under command arrangements on a part-time contract basis.

..... The B.D.A. meanwhile continued to press for the establishment of a satisfactory dental service for the forces organised as part of Army Medical Services. In the view of the shocking dental conditions during the South African War that had been revealed not only by the dental but also by the lay press it might be expected that adequate provision would have been made by 1914. The opposition was, however, too great and at the outbreak of war in August 1914 there were still no adequate facilities for the dental treatment of the soldier at home and no provision whatever for threatment in the field. Not one dental surgeon accompanied the Expeditionary Force to France. On mobilisation, the cost of treatment continued to be a local charge and in no case the expenditure exceed one pound per man."

Its interesting really, all that debating and then one person gets a toothache and the whole thing goes through.

Barbara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure what would have been used in the event of toothache, clove oil, perhaps, but what magic cures would have been advertised at this time?

Dave

Dave, according to the Official History

" Oral Hygiene - It is particularly essential in the early stages to render the buccal cavity as clean as possible. Roots, carious teeth and foreign bodies should be removed, the remaining teeth scaled, constant irrigation of the mouth practised, and teeth and gums painted with iodine or picric solution. By such means sepsis is checked, healing accelerated and septic pneumonia inhibited."

Barbara

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks Barbara,

I came across an account in the letters page of a newspaper in which a man was deeply critical of the use of Novacaine, and suggested that that this could often lead to fear and paralysis, and even death in some instances. Were there many accounts of 'Death in the Dentist's Chair', and what would the recorded verdict have been?

Regards to All,

Dave

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

For those of you interested in dentistry and the health of military teeth there is an interesting article in a recent New Scientist (10 March 2007). Mainly discusses Boer War but emphasises how little matters had improved by 1914. By 1918, however, dental services available to the front-line soldier were much better.

Kevin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is also a chapter on reconstructive surgery in a book on WW1 called something like "Staring into Apocalypse" - maddeningly, I can't get the title right enough to find it on Amazon, google or the Forum - can anyone help?

Is it this one?

Cecil H, Liddle P. Facing Armageddon. The First World War Experienced

London, Pen & Sword Books, 1996 ?

(Papers from an international conference held in Leeds in 1994, with a section on medical aspects of the war, compiled into a huge book.)

From the bibliography on the Gillies Archives site: http://website.lineone.net/~andrewbamji/index.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...