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JAMA 100 Years Ago
November 19, 2008

THE TEETH OF SCHOOL CHILDREN.

JAMA. 2008;300(19):2317. doi:10.1001/jama.2008.580

Medical inspection of schools is so recent that it is rather early to draw conclusions from it. The earliest examinations were directed to the discovery of contagious diseases, but recently the work of the inspector is demanded more in relation to pedagogy than to the interests of the public health. Problems of mental and physical development must be taken up and attention must be paid to those organs that are of special importance in the securing of the education. Consequently it is as necessary to discover physical defects of the eyes and ears and general nutrition as the presence of streptococci in the throat or pediculi on the scalp. While defects of vision probably rank first in their influence on the mentality, they are not so frequent nor are they so important with reference to general nutrition as is the condition of the teeth. According to J. E. Laberge,2 among 50,000 children inspected in Montreal, 1,333 were found with defective vision while 13,385 had decayed teeth. Inspections in the Chicago schools give about the same proportion. Decay of the teeth is likely to be passed over lightly as an inevitable defect of little importance. Its importance should not, however, be underrated, as it is likely to have an unfavorable effect on nutrition and incidentally on mental development. That such decay is largely preventable goes without saying.

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