A Look Back at the Radium Dial Girls: A Modern Dentist’s Worst Nightmare

When radium was first introduced to the market in the early 20th century, it was marketed as not only safe but as a health remedy for a range of complaints. It was also popular for the way it glows. A popular line of watches with numbers painted with radium-laced paint became popular in the US, thanks to workers in a factory, later known as the radium girls. The effects on their health of their work, including their dental health, prompted the introduction of workplace safety regulations.

To create precise numbers of the dials of the watches they made, the radium girls were trained to use their lips to make the point of the brush as sharp as possible. After each number, the women would put their brushes in their mouths, swallowing a little bit of paint each time. Within a few years, they began to fall ill in large numbers, experiencing dental health problems and bone loss. During a tooth extraction, a dentist inadvertently pulled out the entire jaw of one of the radium girls.

Fortunately, the dentists in Chicago at University Associates in Dentistry don’t see radium-related problems like these, but they do help people with missing teeth and other oral health issues. To make an appointment with a dentist, please call (312) 704-5511.

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