patron saint of dentists
is St. Apollonia, who reportedly
had her teeth pulled out in
249 AD by an anti-Christian mob.
Hard to believe,
but most Americans didnt brush their teeth until soldiers
brought the Army-enforced habit back home from World War II. Thats
especially strange, because chew sticks
twigs with one end frayed into soft bristles
have been found in Egyptian tombs
going back to about 3000 BC. The first toothpaste developed about
the same time, a mixture of ground pumice and wine....
ancient Romans took teeth-cleaning further, including it as part
of some of their religious ceremonies. The patriarchy employed certain
slaves, forerunners of modern dental hygienists, to clean their
teeth. The also invented the first toothpaste and mouthwash with
a secret ingredient: human urine. They especially prized imported
Portuguese urine for its strength, but that was probably more a
function of evaporation on the long trip to Rome than any ethnic
to be an active ingredient in toothpastes and mouthwashes until
well into the 18th century because its ammonia was a great cleanser.
In fact, ammonia continues to be an ingredient in many modern dentifrices,
but now manufactured in the laboratory, not the lavatory. Other
ingredients in toothpaste over the years included herbs, honey,
ground shells, talc, mice, rabbit heads, and lizard livers.
The first toothbrush
appeared in China around 1498. The bristles were plucked from hogs
living in Chinas cold-weather provinces because their hair
was stouter and firmer; they were set into handles of bone or bamboo.
The Chinese toothbrush traveled to Europe in the 1600s and became
discovered the positive effects of fluoride on teeth in 1802 when they
noticed that the citizens of fluoride-rich Naples, Italy had brown mottled
teeth but few cavities. By the 1840s, some Europeans sucked honey-flavored
fluoride lozenges to prevent tooth decay, but the idea of adding the chemical
to toothpaste was still a century away. Instead, manufacturers started
adding soap in 1824 and chalk in the 1850s. In 1892, Dr. Washington Sheffield
of Connecticut was the first to put toothpaste into tubes like those used
for oil paint.
The discovery of nylon
in 1938 promised to revolutionize the toothbrush just in time for World
War II, but the bristles of Dr. Wests Miracle Tuft Toothbrush released
that year were stiff enough to be a painful hazard to the gums; it wasnt
until the early 1950s that a safe, soft nylon bristle
became the standard. Since then, more than 2,000 toothbrushes have been
patented across the world.
its Look ma, no cavities campaign for Crest, Procter &
Gamble hired artist Norman Rockwell to illustrate its
& Gamble was the first company to put fluoride in toothpaste in 1956.
In a brilliant ad campaign thats still quoted 40 years later, kids
ran into the house brandishing notes from their dentist and screaming,
Look ma, no cavities! Grand Rapids, Michigan had 20 years
earlier been the first US city to deliberately add fluoride to city water
to reduce cavities. Other cities followed suit to a point that nearly
2/3 of the US population now has fluoridated water, despite warnings from
right-wing fearmongers that fluoride was a communist plot to produce a
generation of drugged and mind-controlled zombies. (Hm, look around you
maybe they were right after all?)
Meanwhile, electric toothbrushes made their way from Switzerland, where
theyd been developed immediately after World War II, and first hit
the US market in 1960. The latest gimmick is an ultra-sonic toothbrush
that is reported to clean between teeth with high-pitched sound waves.
Maybe true, but dont throw away the floss until all the results