Robert Baden-Powell has become famous as founder of the Boy Scout movement, but his role as pioneer of dental care is less known. A hundred years ago, in May 1908, in his bestseller "Scouting for boys", he has charged boys to be careful with their teeth, brushing them twice a day. In case toothbrushes should be missing, he showed how to make a camp toothbrush out of a dry twig, frayed out at the end. And he drastically described the consequences of tooth loss if teeth are neglected in young age.
Scouting for boys has been sold in more than sixty million copies in thirty languages all over the world. The ideal window of opportunity for adopting hygiene behaviour is thought to be the age of boy scouts, thus Baden-Powell probably is one of the most influential pioneers of dental care.
Obviously, he has been quite successful: In a 2003 survey, the toothbrush was selected as the number one invention Americans could not live without, beating out the automobile, computer, cell phone, and microwave oven.
A number of studies show the importance of teeth for health: Disease of the gums has been linked to heart disease, tooth loss to disease of aortic valves, rheumatic disease and a poor general health and quality of life, to name only a few.
Photo credit: Horace Cox, C. Arthur Pearson, and The Scout Association