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Teeth made of hippo bones

Hippo teethNowadays you can go to the dentist to have a broken tooth fixed or missing tooth replaced on the spot. In previous centuries it was not as easy.

The problem of missing teeth was first discussed at length in 1728 by Pierre Fauchard in his book The Surgeon Dentist. Although gold was used to replace teeth by early cultures the 18th century dentists sometimes used ivory or hippopotamus bone instead.

But the easiest way to replace missing teeth was simply to find the teeth of dead men, which were plentiful in supply in times of war.

Barbers as dentists

From the Middle Ages until the 18th century the local barber’s duties included dentistry, blood letting, minor operations and bone-setting. The barber’s striped red pole originates from when patients would grip the pole during an (obviously painful) operation. Which isn’t too bad when you consider that in the 18th century Dr Monsey of Chelsea, England tied a piece of catgut around a patient’s tooth, threaded the other through a hole drilled in a bullet, loaded the bullet into his revolver and pulled the trigger.

Earliest record of a toothpaste

In ancient Egypt people used powdered ashes of ox hooves and burned egg shells to clean their teeth. In 1st century AD, ashes from burnt mice, rabbit and wolf heads were thought to benefit the gums. Washing your teeth with the blood from a tortoise three times a year (not a day) was a precaution against toothaches. Pure white wine was used as a mouthwash.

The earliest record of a toothpaste as we know it today was mentioned in 1780. The aromatic toothpaste was launched by Colgate in 1873.

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