Oral Hygiene – The Way It Was

Painful, unpleasant and hilarious are the adjectives that come to mind when describing ancient dental practices.

Back in 7000 BC, the bead workers of the Indus Valley in Pakistan acted as ?dentists?, curing all tooth ailments by drilling into the tooth with a bow drill. Leaves one wondering as to the level of relief they experienced.

Amusingly enough, Sumerian texts from 5 000 BC actually state that teeth worms were the cause of tooth decay. This belief remained steadfast within civilizations across the globe until the late 1800’s. Not only did these worms dig into the tooth cavity where they stubbornly tossed and turned causing pain, they also differed in appearance depending on where they were found. British folklore compares the worms to eels, whereas the Germans believed that they were red, blue and grey in colour. Other cultures believed them to resemble maggots.

On a more positive note, it was believed that once the worms came into contact with air they would die – this in turn spurned a number of treatment theories. Praying to the gods was a favourite, but if that did not do the trick, then one could the bait the worm, entice it to the surface and either pluck it out with alacrity or trap it so, that it would breathe and die. The baiting took many forms – chanting, magic spells or agonisingly, a red hot probe which was pushed down into the tooth canal to incinerate the dreaded worm. Another much-loved method was to pull the worm-like-looking nerve and cry success – not surprising, considering the nerve is often the cause of the pain. As deadly, was burning poisonous henbane seeds to encourage the worm to become ?burst seeds’ which would either die or leave the body. The cavity was then filled with more powdered henbane seed and the resin of the mastic tree. Needless to say, this contributed vastly to the fatality rate of the time. However, if witchcraft was not your thing, then honey was used to lure the demon worm to the surface.

The Romans used Spanish urine to whiten their teeth as they believed it to be unique in its formula. Truth be told, the reason it worked was that it took a long time for the urine to get to Italy and it was by then rich in ammonia, an effective tooth whitening agent.

Elsewhere in Europe, barbers assumed the role of dentists and had their own inimitable method of whitening teeth. In particular, nitric acid, which is highly corrosive and probably accounted for additional cavities and dramatically shortened lives.

Let’s not even consider the practice of replacing pulled teeth with either a corpse or an animal’s teeth.

Makes one bow down in gratitude to be living in an era where natural remedies are generally backed by solid scientific research ensuring a longer lifespan and a much more pleasant and palatable experience.

On July 6th, 2011, posted in: Latest News from Purefresh by
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