I have finally found the man I owe my teeth to.
He was Dr. Irwin Mandel, who just died in New York at age 89.
I was one of those kids who always had cavities. We didn't know anything about flossing when I grew up, and the first time I ever heard of teeth cleaning I was in my 20s. In spite of having had braces, so at least my teeth were straight, I continued getting cavities all the time and I was certain that I was just going to lose my teeth when I was 55, like my Dad did, and have to wear dentures ever after.
But a dentist convinced me that if I really tried to take care of my teeth -- flossing, regular cleaning, etc -- then I could keep them forever. He turned out to be right. I have a few crowns now, as my filling-filled molars wear out, but no plates and no dentures.
I have always wondered where this good advice came from and now I have found out the source -- it was Dr. Mandel whose research into preventive dentistry was the beginning of it all.
Thanks, Dr. Mandel, for saving my mouth.