An economic story of dental health

As a kid, Ryanne Jones’ friend accidentally hit her in the mouth with a hammer, knocking out her two front teeth. Her parents never had enough money for the dental care needed to fix them, so Ryanne lived much of her adult life with a chipped and crooked smile.

Ryanne spent a while as a single mom working low-wage jobs, but she had higher aspirations: she interviewed dozens of times a year for higher-paying roles that she was more than qualified for. But she never landed any of them. And to her, it really seemed like the only thing standing between her and a better job was her rotting, brown front teeth.

If it is one person’s story that is micro economics, but if it is millions of peoples’ stories then it is a macro story. 22 minutes worth listening to.


That has been many/most people’s story for centuries. Paying for dental care is VERY expensive–which is why it is essentially NOT INSURABLE (because the premiums would bankrupt the insured).

My dad has soft teeth. As a kid in Dublin there was no fluoride in the water. He has seen two dentists in this country. First the father and now the son who is retirement age. Dad has had a lot of work done. These guys did the work for half price because dad is a doctor. An older professional curtesy. Gone are those days. Dad in the last two years has had his last round of work done. Dad is 84. The costs were somewhere over $5000 out of dad’s pocket at half price.

He has been missing his front tooth since age 17 when it got smacked in a cricket match. He has had a plate ever since.

Dad does not take a local for any of the work.

No, your father has had a high caries rate. No such thing as soft teeth. Individual susceptibility varies…and fluoridated water is one prevention strategy that is undeniably beneficial…but diet (especially during childhood) and other habits are the primary drivers of dental diseases.

I’ve always said that >95% of my income was generated by treating diseases that’re >95% preventable for >95% of the population. That’s a bit misleading in that the figure is closer to 99% across the board but I hesitate to say that as folk still hang onto wrong beliefs about the pathophysiology of dental disease and would be even less willing to accept it as a valid figure.


@VeeEnn given your interest in dentistry and diet, I think you would enjoy the classic book, " Nutrition and Physical Degeneration: A Comparison of Primitive and Modern Diets and Their Effects," by Weston A. Price. I borrowed this book online from the Australian national library for free.

Written in the 1930s before the western diet permeated the world, Dr. Price examined perfect dentition in grandparents who grew up on indigenous, local whole-food diets while their grandchildren who ate modernized foods, such as white flour, white sugar, refined vegetable oils and canned goods, had narrowed jaws and overlapping, decaying teeth. I found the book fascinating and stunning. I also couldn’t help wondering what other physical and biochemical deformities the modern diet caused but Dr. Price focused on teeth.


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It was required reading at dental school…as an example of myths and fallacies that can build up when one person attempts to prove fundamentally unsound beliefs.

No doubt about the impact of diet on dental disease but not in the way that much of Price’s observations suggest. I’m always fascinated when folk believe weird things (oftentimes asking myself if I’m the one who’s believing weird things) I’d assumed that Weston Price’s ideas had died a death …for reasons that included the account you reproduced above along with other stuff that’s physiologically impossible so read up about him when folk started quoting the Weston Price Foundation on the H$N board years ago.

He actually didn’t work in clinical practice for long before he started his overseas work but had formed a lot of anti science ideas already. Not a huckster, I’m sure, and he thought he was right based on minimal observations but he was wrong in so many ways. Sort of reminds me of Samuel Hahnemann and homeopathy

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Bottom line he did not have fluoride but you did give me something of an education.

Me nither. A good many water companies have never fluoridated their water. My first experiences of dental care were extractions of decayed baby teeth. My parents …like a good many low income, low dental I.Q folks around…assumed that teeth decayed as a matter if course. Sweeties would make it worse but dentists were folk you saw to have rotten teeth extracted. The fact that the NHS removed all financial barriers to receiving dental care for kids didn’t change this notion very much.

My picky eating habits and choice of career (with all the myth busting ideas a dental education contained) changed that for me. Stopped my caries experience dead in its tracks, along with the early shift away from healthy homeostasis that a cariogenic diet produces in the rest of the body. My husband’s early dental experiences weren’t much different…and, had we not gotten together in those early days, he too might’ve had a track record like your dads. He never smoked, though, so maybe not.

My daughter has been the real beneficiary as, at almost 41, she has a zero caries experience. That is no cavities and never a restoration. Thames water authority didn’t fluoridate our water supply back then, either. I saw to that deficiency but the real difference was diet and oral hygiene. A somewhat depressing thing for me is that at every visit, there’s almost always an exclamation of surprise from someone (dentist/hygienist etc) to see such a phenomenon…just like it was for me decades ago. The more things change…

We’ll see what the future holds for the granddaughter…

And, coincidence of coincidences, I just opened up may Facebook page to find that one of my former flatmates had updated her picture profile to one from about 1973…around the time that we were reading stuff like John Yudkin’s “Pure, White and Deadly” and the Weston Price tome that Wendy mentioned upstream. The enthusiasm of youth. We thought we could change the World. One dental patient at a time…