Hispanic Heritage: Puerto Rican scientist takes a bite out of cavities

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A Puerto Rican dentist was the first to discover conclusive evidence of how bacteria cause dental cavities and tooth decay, identifying which type of Lactobacillus was responsible.

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why it matters: Discovery by Odontologist and US Army Major Fernando Rodriguez Vargas helped Recognize how oral hygiene and diet can affect “periodic fluctuations” caries lactobacillus bacteria.

  • “His work on the specific bacteriology of dental caries has been the foundation of much research in this area,” wrote Willard Camalier, former President of the Medical Service of DC in 1940.
  • About 90% of adults aged 20 and older have at least one cavity. This problem is exacerbated in people of color, who are twice as likely to have untreated tooth decay. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

description: Born in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, Rodriguez earned a DDS degree from Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

  • Rodriguez joined the US Indian Medical Services in 1915, where he Study The speckled enamel of a Native American community in Arizona.
  • In 1917, shortly after America entered World War I, Rodriguez was commissioned as a first lieutenant.
  • During his military service, He accepted a commission for the US Army Dental Corps, where he began his research on the bacterial origins of tooth decay.
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In 1921, Rodriguez published his theory research causes of dental disease, documenting their discovery of three Lactobacillus species that are believed to cause cavities.

  • At the time of publication, Rodriguez’s work was Agreed One of “the most valuable advances made in the etiology of dental caries”.

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