Probably all that you ever wanted to know about oral hygiene can be located at the American Dental Association.

Yes, even the Tooth Fairy has moved into cyberspace. No $$$ under your pillow when you wake up, but this site is well worth checking out.

Need help brushing your teeth? Check out the Oral-B Convention of Ideas.

If you want to learn more about the history of Oral Hygiene (and other related items) check out the great book: Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things by Charles Panati (1987 - Harper and Row).






Why Portuguese urine is so important for oral hygiene.

Long before that cool mint gel (do you really trust anything that is a deep transparent green goo? - it can't be good for you), the ancient Egyptians invented the first toothpaste. 

Not any ordinary toothpaste, but a mixture of pumice stone and strong wine vinegar. Mmm, mmm, good. 

May not sound very palatable, but the Romans came up with something even better. 

It seems that the upper-class Roman women paid top dollar for their version of toothpaste - human urine. Not any urine would do. They couldn't use their own pee, they had to actually pay money for it. It had to be Portuguese urine, believed to be the strongest in the world. It must have been real good at cleaning those teeth by the time they brought it all the way from Portugal. 

Urine was an active component in toothpastes and mouthwashes until the eighteenth century! Believe it or not, it actually worked. It seems that the ammonia molecules (still used in modern pastes) in the urine does a great job at whitening teeth. It makes one great tasting mouthwash. Can you imagine going to a party where everyone has rinsed with that stuff? I would leave early. 

Once the Roman Empire fell, so did dental hygiene (if we can actually call rinsing with urine "hygiene"). 

500 years later, some Persian physician named Rhazes recommended filling cavities. He concocted a glue like paste made from ammonium and iron and mixed it with a yellowish resin. 

This was actually a sophisticated formula. 

Too bad the drilling was not. The drills were more like chisels. And novacaine was not an option at this point in history. OUCH! (I would sooner have them pull the tooth) 

In the 18th century, George Washington's dentist, John Greenwood, attached his mom's spinning wheel to his drill. Now the drill was spinning at high speed (actually slow by today's standards). One would think that this meant less pain, but it did not. It seems that the drills got so hot that they burned the patient, probably making up for any pain saved by the increased drill speed.

By the way, the barber and the dentist were the same person prior to this century! Get your hair chopped and your six month checkup at the same time. 

So, where did they get that stupid red and white striped pole from? 

It seems that these barber/dentist combos also practiced that great surgery known as bloodletting. During bloodletting, you were told to squeeze a pole as tight as possible. This would cause the veins to pop out, and the blood to flow more freely. 

Naturally, the pole would get red from the blood. So they had a brainstorm - Why not paint the pole red so the blood stains cannot be seen? They did just that. 

When the pole was not in use, they put it outside the door for advertising (would you stop in a place where blood was dripping from their sign?). They then wrapped the pole with the white gauze that they used after the bloodletting. Hence, the modern barber's pole (to think it could have been the dentist's pole, instead). 

By the way, in 1802, Italian dentists noticed that their patients that came from Naples had no cavities. Why? Their soil and water was rich in fluoride (which also blotched their teeth). 

Word spread and dentists in Europe recommended to their patients that they suck on lozenges made from fluoride and mixed with honey. 

One last useless fact. The first testing of water with fluoride actually occurred in Newburgh, NY and obviously proved successful. 

Useless?  Useful?  I’ll leave that for you to decide.

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