September 12, 2006

13 Oral Hygiene Practices from the Past

It seems like every time I go to buy toothpaste there are fifty new kinds to choose from. Offering endless combinations of properties (whitening, tartar control, breath-freshening, cavity protection, sensitive teeth formula) in a vast array of media (paste, gel, liquid gel, sparkle gel) and flavors, I usually opt for my old standby, plain mint paste.

Although I find it daunting to have so many choices, I am glad that our toothpaste technology is so advanced. People in other times didn’t have it so easy; they resorted to a lot of strange methods to keep their teeth clean and their breath fresh.

To Freshen the Breath:

  • Goat’s milk; white wine; old urine (1st Century C.E.)
  • Strawberries (19th Century)

To Protect Against Toothache:

  • Pills made of grated garlic and saltpeter, inserted into the ear (3000 B.C.E)
  • Wearing bones picked from wolf excrement (1st Century C.E.)
  • Washing teeth with tortoise blood three times a year (1st Century C.E.)

To Heal the Gums:

  • Ashes from burnt mice, rabbit or wolf heads, ox heels and goat feet (1st Century C.E.)

Items Used To Clean the Teeth:

  • “Chew stick”—made from small twigs or tree roots (3000 B.C.E.)
  • Linen towel (3rd Century B.C.E.)
  • Paste made from burnt bread (18th Century)
  • Paste made from dragon’s blood, cinnamon and burnt alum (18th Century)
  • Charcoal (19th Century)
  • Combination of myrrh, honey and sage (19th Century)
  • Combination of cuttlefish bone, cream of tartar, drop lake and clover oil (19th Century)

Sources: The Wisdom Tooth Site and the Oral-B Learning Center

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