If you’re like most people today, you probably follow a simple oral hygiene routine every day. You brush your teeth after breakfast and dinner, floss once a day, and you visit your dentist and oral hygienist regularly. What’s more, you’re familiar with the symptoms of tooth decay and gum disease, so you’re able to spot problems and get treatment earlier on. (If you’re not so sure, check out our previous blog: Gum disease – symptoms and treatment.)
While this kind of routine may be the norm today, the oral hygiene practices of our ancestors looked very different. From chewing on sticks to clean their teeth, to using feathers and porcupine quills as toothpicks, and blaming tooth decay on ‘tooth worms’, mankind has employed some interesting – and often downright odd – dental hygiene practices over the centuries.
Take a look at our ‘highlights reel’ of the evolution of oral hygiene through the ages:
- 5000 BCE: An ancient Sumerian text cites ‘tooth worms’ (yuck!) as the cause of tooth decay. (Source: ADA)
- 3500 BCE: Babylonians clean their teeth by chewing on the frayed ends of bark and sticks. (Source: Beavers Dentistry)
- 500 BCE: A concoction formulated by the ancient Greeks to treat bad breath calls for, amongst other ingredients, the bodies of three mice and the head of a hare. (Source: The Gale Encyclopedia of Science)
- 355 BCE: Hippocrates, a Greek physician, asserts that food stuck between teeth causes tooth decay, and recommends cleaning teeth with a tooth powder and mouthwash. (Source: Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry)
- 350 BCE: Aristotle claims that men have more teeth than women in his famous zoological text ‘History of Animals’. (He was incorrect, of course.)
- 166-201: The Etruscans of ancient Italy practice dental prosthetics, including the use of gold crowns and fixed bridgework. (Source: ADA)
- 1400s: The first ‘modern’ toothbrush is invented in China, in the form of stiff hog hairs attached to a bamboo stick. (Source: Beavers Dentistry)
- 1723: Pierre Fauchard, a French surgeon often considered to be ‘the father of modern dentistry’, publishes ‘The Surgeon Dentist, a Treatise on Teeth’, the first book to describe a comprehensive system for the practice of dentistry. (Source: ADA)
- 1789: The first patent for porcelain teeth is granted.
- 1819: Levi Spear Parmley recommends using waxed silk to floss teeth in his book, ‘A Practical Guide to the Management of Teeth’. (Source: Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry)
- 1832: James Snell invents a reclining dental chair. (Source: ADA)
- 1880s: The advent of the collapsible metal tube leads to the mass production and subsequent popularity of tube toothpaste, as opposed to powdered or liquid variations. (Source: ADA)
- 1899: Edward Hartley Angle is credited with making orthodontics a dental specialty. (Source: ADA)
- 1905: A local anaesthetic, later known as Novocain, is formulated by Alfred Einhorn. (Source: ADA)
- 1913: Dr Alfred Fones coins the term ‘dental hygienist’ and opens the Fones Clinic for Dental Hygienists in Connecticut, USA. (Source: ADA)
- 1938: The first nylon toothbrush is manufactured and sold. (Source: ADA)
- 1950: Fluoride toothpaste appears on the market. (Source: ADA)
- 1954: The first electric toothbrush is developed in Switzerland.
- 1990s: The age of dental aesthetics begins, thanks to the growing popularity of bleaching, veneers, orthodontics, and implants. (Source: ADA)
Regularly visiting your oral hygienist will improve your overall health.If our ancestors were able to access the kind of sophisticated dental hygiene practices and instruments we take for granted today, they would have lived much longer and healthier lives.
This is because good oral hygiene is about so much more than improving the look and feel of your teeth and smile..
While a gorgeous smile does wonders for your self-esteem and confidence, a healthy mouth and teeth significantly contributes to your general health. eeping gum disease and tooth decay in check relieves chronic – and sometimes crippling – pain, allowing you to chew your food properly. This aids digestion and improves the absorption of vital nutrients. Perhaps more importantly, the bacteria caused by periodontal disease (which occurs when your hygiene regime is no adequate) can enter the bloodstream and cause serious problems, even leading to strokes and heart attacks.
An experienced oral hygienist won’t simply clean and polish your teeth by removing any scale, plaque, and staining. They’ll l also check for any early signs of gum disease, inspect your brushing and flossing technique, and educate you on how best to care for your teeth and mouth. This is the kind of dental care that your smile – and your health – will thank you for.
Want to ‘brush up’ on your dental hygiene? Make sure your daily oral hygiene routine is up to scratch by booking a consultation with one of our specialists and experienced orthodontists for exclusive care that’s tailored for you.