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David Manson obituary

My father, Dr David Manson, who has died aged 94, was a dentist, teacher, researcher and writer, whose groundbreaking textbook on the prevention of tooth loss became a key reference for practitioners worldwide.

His Periodontics for the General Practitioner, published in 1966, put periodontology (the study of the supporting structures of teeth) at the forefront of oral health. He was the first person to write about personalised dental care by looking at the patient’s lifestyle and general health rather than only treating the disease. Now, 53 years later and in its 10th edition, this book has been translated into many languages.

He was born in Dundee to Sidney Manson, a wallpaper salesman, and Fanny (nee Taylor) – both children of Lithuanian migrants; the family moved to Leeds, where David won a scholarship to the City of Leeds school in 1936.

His academic success was against the backdrop of his mother’s frequent hospital stays and his father’s intermittent employment. He experienced intense shame asking relatives for food and hiding from the landlady seeking unpaid rent.

On leaving school, David’s goal was to study chemistry or medicine – but after advice from the family he switched to dentistry, which he studied at Leeds University, graduating in 1947.

In 1946 David went to a party, on a promise of lots of food, and met Hilda Bloom. Her singing, cooking and wit bewitched him; they were married two years later.

Hilda was pivotal in persuading him to specialise after 10 dispiriting years at his dental practice in Chapeltown, Leeds, where he frequently failed to save people’s teeth. In 1959, David gained a fellowship in dental surgery, and he and Hilda took their young family to the US for David to study the emerging field of periodontics, almost unknown in the UK, at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Returning to London in 1960, he practised as a specialist periodontist at the Royal Dental hospital, where he was made a consultant in 1963. He passed on his knowledge as a teacher there, and then, from the early 70s onwards, at the Eastman Dental hospital. He had a reputation as a funny and engaging lecturer.

In recognition of his work, David was the first recipient of honorary membership of the British Society of Periodontology.

In his retirement in London, he sculpted and wrote biographies – but always a poet, in his last few days he wrote a Haiku for a health care assistant at the Royal Free hospital: “Pigtails mask a nurse. Tendrils hide a tenderness. Mending is her name.”

Hilda died in 2015. David’s brother, Louis, died a few weeks before him. He is survived by his children, Claire, Nicky, Andrew and me, by his five grandchildren, and by his companion, Winnie, and his sister, Joyce.


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