HERITAGE

HERITAGEOne of the criteria to get entry as a foot soldier in the East India Company was to have a sound set of teeth as the greased paper covering the explosives and cartridges had to be bitten open prior to firing the muskets and pistols. This could be termed as the first known dental standards in the Indian military.

John Woodall (1556-1643), a contemporary of Harvey, was a military surgeon in Lord Willoughby's regiment in 1591 and later first surgeon-general to the East India Company in 1612 - 1616. He anticipated modern knowledge of the properties of vitamin C in regard to scurvy and was on record stating that scaling, gum treatment and tooth extractions were all part and parcel of Army surgeons ies.

Awakening on dental fitness emerged only during Boer War when many troops became incapable of active military duty in the war fronts due to various dental diseases, could not chew food and had to be evacuated. The realization of a ‘biting fit’ army for ‘fighting fit’ came. The British Army tried to solve this problem by authorizing some general practioners to come from England at their own expense and work in the base camps.

Trained dentists from UK were not available to British Army in India. British troops in India received basic dental treatment by medical officers. Dental treatment was restricted mainly to maxillofacial injuries and emergencies. Indian troops had no dental services of their own till Feb 1941. Civilian dental surgeons were employed in each command. "Indian of Good Character" were given the privilege of denture rehabilitation only if their duties were considered necessary. In 1915, it was decided that recruits need not be rejected on account of decaying or missing teeth provided they could be made fit. In 1920, 21 Dental Officers of the British Army formed the nucleus of Army Dental Corps (British) to look after British troops in India. During the second Great War, their number increased to 28. Wherever no Army Dental Corps (British) officer was available, the British soldiers were treated by civilian dental surgeons. Prior to 1939, no British soldier was sent on duty to India unless he was 'dentally fit' which meant a clean mouth in which carious teeth had been filled and serious deficiencies, if any, had been made good by fitting artificial dentures. The Indian troops in the same time could only get treatment in the form of extractions of loose and painful teeth by a Vice Roy Commissioned Officer of the Indian Medical Department (IMD). Dental treatment required by Indian soldiers was administered by the personnel of Indian Medical Services in the MI rooms for which only basic equipment was provided. Only those soldiers requiring specialized treatment, whose dental disabilities occurred during field service, were referred to IADC (BT).

Universal dental forceps as part of the medical equipment of each medical inspection room