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Congratulations! You were born at the right time in dental history! Just read below to see exactly how lucky you are!
Catch a glimpse of a European mouth during the Middle Ages and you'd probably run screaming into the next room. And that's after you almost passed out from the smell. Teeth need a lot of TLC if you want to keep them at all. And history teaches that when they're gone and all you can eat is soup, a person will go to just about any lengths to get them back - including digging up a corpse, armed with pliers!
TEETH TO DIE FOR
These days we take pretty good care of our teeth. We brush. We're supposed to floss. But back in the bad old days, it was a different story. The result? Teeth decayed and cracked. Gums swelled, and teeth fell out or had to be pulled. People soon found out that life was difficult without proper chompers, so false teeth were invented.
By 300 B.C. folks in Etruria (a part of what is now Italy) were making false teeth from hippo and whale bone and setting them into lovely gold settings that fit right into a toothless mouth. The Etruscans were the best dentists in the ancient world. When a person died, whatever decent, real teeth they had were extracted from their corpses and fashioned into beautiful Etruscan dentures - a fun word for false teeth. Unfortunately, the dental skills of the Etruscans vanished along with their civilization. (back to top)
Barbers were the dentists of the Middle Ages. They also were the teeth whiteners. First they would take a metal file and roughen up the surface of the tooth. They then brushed the tooth with a solution of corrosive nitric acid. Sure, the teeth were white for a while, but the acid ate away the enamel. When the protective enamel was gone, a mouthful of cavities soon followed. And there you were - toothless as a month old baby.
By the year 100 A.D. in ancient Rome, people were sticking little metal hunks of wrought iron that had been beaten into fang-like shapes into their jawbones to replace missing teeth. And you thought braces made you look like a metal mouth!
Not surprisingly, during the Dark Ages, between 500 and 1000 A.D., the art of replacing missing teeth was lost. The best thing anyone could figure out was to carve animal bones into toothy shapes and tie them together with silk thread. Dastardly "dentists" then lassoed the fake teeth onto whatever was still left standing in their customer's almost toothless mouth. Trust me. It didn't work.
Medieval and Renaissance folks from the 1300s to the 1500s were clueless as well. They thought cavities - those ouchy holes caused by too many sweets - were the work of tooth worms. The best the toothless rich could hope for was to buy good, strong teeth pulled from the poor, which were then set into fake gums made of ivory.
How did people keep these contraptions securely in their mouths while they ate? It was tricky. In the 1500s some folks had their gums pierced with hooks, and then wired their false teeth to their jaws. When springs were finally available, the wire wearers gave a sigh of relief. But spring-held dentures could be pretty embarrassing too. Sometimes they went flying out of the wearer's mouth at the most embarrassing moments. (back to top)
It didn't matter if you were rich or smart. Kings, queens, and most of America's Founding Fathers had serious teeth issues. By the late 1700s, hope for the rotten-toothed arrived! A French dentist and pharmacist invented rot-proof dentures made of porcelain (the same stuff that your toilet bowl is made from). An Italian dentist figured out how to make a single porcelain tooth on a little stick-pin that attached to a metal plate in 1808. But the new fake teeth still hurt like heck.
In 1839, a fellow named Charles Goodyear figured out how to take the sap from a rubber tree and make something useful from it: soft, flexible rubber. The squishy rubber took a lot of the pain out of wearing dentures. (back to top)
During the Middle Ages and right up thought he American Civil war in the 1860s, folks would do anything to get new teeth, including stealing them from corpses. Alas, the dead teeth they stole rotted quickly and gave you dragon breath to boot. But that didn't stop the tooth thieves - or the tooth merchants. After the Civil war, barrels of young American soldiers' teeth were shipped to Europe to be made into dentures. (back to top)
10,000 YEARS AGO Cave dwellers pried out those annoying hunks of meat caught between their teeth by stabbing at them with branches that had been chewed on, softened and then frayed at one end. Voila! The first toothbrushes were born.
3000 B.C-500 A.D. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used toothpicks, chewsticks, tree twigs, linen strips, bird's feathers, animal bones, or porcupine quills to poke at the gunk that got caught between their chompers.
250 A.D. Folks in ancient Rome brushed their teeth with human urine. They gargled with it, too. For some reason rich Romans thought that pee from Portugal was the very best and were willing to pay big bucks for it. You may be surprised to learn that they were actually on to something. Urine is loaded with ammonia, which is a great cleanser.
600 A.D.Over in Africa and the Middle East, they learned by trial and error that one particular small tree - Salvadore persica - had a chemical in its branches that kept teeth sparkling and healthy. Many people in the Middle East still chew on the branches for a sweet, bright smile.
900 A.D. A Persian doc named Rhazes figured out how to fill cavities - the pesky holes in your teeth that hurt like heck. The only problem was how to get rid of the decayed part. Rhazes had to hold a metal spike and twist it between his thumb and forefinger - literally screwing the decay away.
100-1300 A.D. Over in Europe, those who did brush their teeth (and they were few and far between) used horsehair brushes. Badger hair was another popular choice, but most folk just stabbed at their gunk-covered teeth with a metal toothpick.
1500 The always-inventive Chinese were brushing their pearly whites with a brand-new gizmo: the toothbrush. They plucked the very stiff hairs from pig's necks and stuck them into tiny holes drilled into bamboo base.
1850 In England about 150 years ago, it was not uncommon for parents of the bride to pay to have all her teeth yanked out so her new hubby wouldn't have to deal with the dentist's bills that were sure to come in the next few years.
1938 The first nylon bristle brushes rolled off the assembly line in America. But the bristles were so stiff they literally made people's gums gush blood.
1939 It took a war and the United States Army to get people into the habit of taking better care of their teeth. Up until World War II, most folks just didn't brush their teeth regularly. But in the armed forces, every soldier got a toothbrush and toothpaste and a nasty drill Sargent ordered them to use them! When the war was over they kept up the habit. (back to top)
In Tudor times (the sixteenth century in England) many wealthy people's teeth turned black from eating too much sugar and not brushing afterwards. So for a while, it was the fashion for women to blacken all their teeth to prove that they could afford lots of sweets. Those who wanted to keep all their teeth brushed with the favorite toothpaste of the time: a mixture of ground crystal, rock salt, marble, glass, snail shells and half a quart while white wine. Burp!
Why don't wooden dentures work?Try this. Take a small bowl and spit in it until you have a half a cup of saliva. This may take a day or two, but that just adds to the yuck factor. Now drop a wooden toothpick into the spit and cover with plastic wrap. Come back in a few days and your toothpick will be all mushy. That's because there are enzymes in saliva that break down cellulose - the main ingredient in wood. (back to top)
Up until a hundred years ago, toothaches were an everyday event. One common medieval remedy was to hand the thighbone of a toad off the aching tooth. Another popular cure was applying a paste of burnt rat's brains. If the thought of chewing rat brain gum wasn't tempting, you could always gargle with urine.
When the rat's brains and urine gargle failed (as they always did), folks had their teeth pulled by whomever was in a pulling mood. It might be the barber or the blacksmith. You never knew and you didn't care. You just wanted the tooth out. Now! Unfortunately, until the mid-1800s, if you lost your choppers, that was it. Pureed or mashed food for you, for the rest of your miserable life, since false teeth were way too expensive for the average Joe. In fact peanut butter was invented by a St. Louis dentist as a source of protein for his toothless patients who couldn't chew anymore. (back to top)
It's hard to imagine the signing of the Declaration of Independence being done by a bunch of gummy guys, but it was! The grim truth is, they by the age of 20, some colonial Americans had lost all their teeth. Unfortunately we're talking grown up snappers here - there weren't any more sets of teeth waiting in the wings. The reason? Americans had a big sweet tooth even back then. They consumed way too much sugar and drank sugar-rich apple cider all day instead of water.
Take George Washington. The Father of our country was never a one for a serious twice a day brushing, so his teeth troubles started when he was still a teenager. He lost his first tooth at 18, and by age 22 the rest were rotting like year-old fruit. On the day he took the oath of office as the president of the brand-new United States, in 1789, he had exactly one real tooth in his head.
His first set of false teeth kind of solved the problem, but not completely. If he tried to smile, the hinges that held the falsies together would fly open. And it was hard to sleep at night with a mouth throbbing with constant pain. (Go grab a one dollar bill. When Washington sat for his official presidential portrait, his teeth were hurting so much he had to take them out. The artist, Gilbert Stuart, had to pack cotton under George's lips and cheeks to plump out his toothless, sunken features.) Desperate to dump his dentures, in 1784, Washington (who was a slave owner) had some of his slave's teeth transplanted into his own jaw. Unfortunately for both George and his slaves, the operation flopped. But there are some advantages to being the leader of a nation. Washington's last set of dentures, made in 1798, were a masterpiece of colonial dentistry. The upper part had carved ivory teeth screwed to a palate made from a sheet of gold. The bottom denture, a single carved block of elephant tusk, was attached to the upper end by steel springs.
If you don't want to end up like G.W., brush, brush, brush and brush some more. Your grown up teeth are all you've got unless you want to eat mush for the rest of your life!
Brush (two times a day - DON'T SKIP BEFORE BED)
Floss - if you skip one night don't skip the next. Try Wild Things, the floss holders.
Fluoride - in your toothpaste, at the dentist's office, and ACT rinse every night.
DIET - You feed the bacteria (sugar-bugs) in your mouth sugar and they'll rot your teeth. Snacking is the deadly enemy of your pearly whites.
SET A TIME FOR SNACKS.
UNLIMITED SNACKING GIVES KEIKI POOR NUTRITIONAL HABITS AND SPOILS THE APPETITE FOR MEALS. (back to top)
(THESE THINGS RUIN TEETH)
candy, chocolate, doughnuts/malasadas, cake, cookies, frosting, shave ice or slushies, frosted cereals, pies, pastries, sweet sour seeds, jam and jelly, sugar (duh!) and any sweet drink (unless it SAYS sugar-free) Gatorade, Capri Sun, Aloha Maid, Arizona ice tea, Hawaiian Sun, Sunny D, Tropicana, syrup drinks (Malolo), Vitamin water, sweet Starbucks drinks, flavored waters, Propel and any SODA (SODA IS A DOUBLE WHAMMY - IT HAS ACID AND SUGAR - THINK OF IT AS A CAVITY IN A CAN!)
MAI 'AI I KA MEA MOMONA A HIKI KA PAU ANA O KOU'AI I LOKO O KOU PA.
(EAT SWEETS ONLY AT MEALTIMES) Know why? Because every time you put sugar in your mouth the cavity bacteria (sugar bugs) eat the sugar and excrete (pee) acid onto your teeth for 30 minutes afterwards. If you sipped on sweet drink every 30 minutes, or sucked on a Tic Tac every 30 minutes, guess what? Continuous acid eating away your tooth enamel..... Yup! Cavities!
IF YOU HAVE TO HAVE A SWEET, BRUSH YOUR TEETH OR RINSE YOUR MOUTH RIGHT AWAY. (back to top)
So "Just Say No" to soda...
... and don't forget to floss! Look what happened to the dinosaurs!
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