No, I didn't know anything about this snippet of history and the last thing I would have thought about was teeth in the Army. I mean teeth in the old days were pretty chronic in everybody but who'd have thought that a good set was part of a soldier's equipment. Grenadiers had to have front teeth to bite open the fuse of the grenade before lighting it. Another snippet, I never associated grenades with Grenadiers. The Musketeers needed front teeth to pull the wooden caps off the powder cartridges before pouring the charge into their muskets. (don't read literature, I thought Musketeers had swords) When the times and weapons changed, muskets to rifles, front teeth dropped off the priority list at the same time as sugar consumption went up and dental health, such as it was, went down.
It came to the crunch (ooer, sorry) during the Boer War when soldiers' teeth had to face ration biscuits and tough beef. The British Army lost 8000 men in battle but more than 2000 were evacuated and 5000 were found unfit for fighting because of dental problems. Soldiers with bad teeth or none couldn't eat, starving soldiers can't fight or have enough stamina to recover from typhoid fever or dysentery.
Frederick Newland Pedley was a specialist in repairing jaws and a founder of the Dental School at Guy's Hospital. When he heard about the head injuries and shattered jaws suffered by the soldiers in South Africa, he offered his services. Always the bastion of wisdom, the War Office wouldn't pay him but let him go on the condition that he supplied all his own equipment and made his own transport arrangements.
His first surgery was a tent and he was overwhelmed by soldiers with dental problems. It was so bad that a Cheshire Regiment had to order mincing machines when it was found that hardly a man had a molar left to eat their meat ration. After 6 months, Pedley returned to England and started campaigning for an Army Dental Corps. The Army's reply was to send four dentists.
At the start of the First World War, no dentists went to France with the B.E.F. Pedley, once again, went on his own and reported that the troops' teeth were worse than ever. It took a tooth ache in the Commander-in-Chief's mouth to get things moving. Douglas Haig's staff was forced to send to Paris for a dentist. So the Army hired a dozen dentists and in 1918 it had 831 but it wasn't until 1921 that it created the Dental Corps.
http://www.bda.org/museum is an interesting site for the history of dentistry.