A long time ago, people utilized charcoal or ground up chalk, ashes, lemon juice, and a honey-tobacco mixture to clean their teeth. It was only a hundred years ago that toothpaste was invented. That orthodontic appliances have been traced all the way back to ancient Egypt keeping mummies teeth straight in the afterlife. Be glad there has been advances since then being that they used a natural fiber called “catgut”. Yikes! The first floss was invented in 1882, made from strands of silk. Over 30% of your tooth surface can be cleaned only by flossing. That means you are not cleaning 30% or more of your tooth surface if you choose not to floss. 1938 is the year that the first toothbrush with nylon bristles was invented. Before that, the Chinese invented the first toothbrush in 1498 – their toothbrushes were made of bristles from various animals such as horses and hogs. Some of the first recorded dentists were found among the Etruscan, who were able to carve false teeth for themselves from animal teeth. In the 1800’s, people who had false teeth in England, ate in their bedrooms before gatherings and events at the dinner table. This unusual Victorian tradition protected them form the embarrassment of having their teeth “fall off” while dining. In medieval England, mothers would burn their children’s baby teeth that fell out. Why you ask? To keep the witches from stealing them, and using them to control the respective child. Less zealous moms would just hide the teeth in places where rats or snakes live, knowing that witches were afraid of these animals. Another interesting fact from the Dark Ages, was that people thought that obtaining a tooth from a dead person would help them grow a new tooth. Although eventually they would figure out that the only way to “grow” a new tooth was to find a way to insert that tooth into the space where the old tooth was. Only a century ago, half of the adults on the continent of North America had no teeth. Luckily our dental hygiene and general practice has improved substantially – today, less than 10% of adults have lost any of their adult teeth. Before dentures were invented, dentists had to obtain teeth from a dead person to replace missing teeth. When those could not be found (or they simply did not fit properly), teeth were made from wood (why do you think George Washington never smiled?).
In the Middle Ages, Germans used donkeys for more than transportation. They believed that kissing one would take care of a toothache. Kissing a donkey isn’t the only ancient solution for a toothache that seems a little wacky. Prior to the Germans and their truly unique approach, the Chinese would actually wrap the teeth that hurt. While that may initially sound fairly reasonable, the wrap was not made of anything special that would help with the pain. Instead, it was a piece of parchment with writing on it. The writing was actually incantations or prayers that would be answered if they truly believed.