From The Tropics To The Toothbrush

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From the Famous Dentists Series

“A clean tooth does not decay.” — Charles C. Bass

c-bass-150x150Charles C. Bass was a medical doctor and researcher at the Tulane University School of Medicine in Louisiana. He started his work focusing on tropical diseases and parasites, like malaria, and ended by developing an effective method to brush teeth. It was this later work that led to his being called the Father of Preventative Dentistry.

Bass’s research on tropical diseases led to a curiosity of how the bacteria and health of the mouth affected overall health. After years of work on those tropical diseases, Bass retired from the university in 1940 and turned his attention to studying oral health.

Bass was not technically a dentist; he was a medical doctor. His background knowledge and skills in research and medicine helped him in pinpointing the causes of tooth decay. Through much experimentation, he came up with what he thought was the best way to brush and floss teeth in order to prevent decay. During his lifetime, the dental establishment did not endorse his findings, though many dentists traveled across the country to New Orleans to be taught his method.

That method, known as the “Bass Technique of Toothbrushing” is easily found online. While another man from Louisiana is credited for coming up with the idea of dental floss, Bass improved the fiber material used. He advocated brushing and flossing the teeth each night before going to bed. The American Dental Association now recommends the Bass technique for brushing teeth, which involves holding the toothbrush at an angle to the tooth.

One of the more interesting things to know about Bass was his desire to not profit from his work and his discoveries. He was adamant that he not receive personal profit and that his developments and ideas were to solely benefit the public. Bass, who came from a family in which two sisters were also involved in the medical field, lived to be 100 years old.