From brushing and flossing to straightening and whitening, people today put a lot of work into maintaining a health and appearance to their smile. The current trend is for straight, pearly white teeth. But history of dental care stretches all the way back to the beginning of human society.
Ancient ways of cleaning teeth
Prehistoric humans who lived before the advert of oral care actually had very few dental problems. Scientists believe this is on account of their diet, which consisted of unprocessed fibrous foods that help clean their teeth while they ate. However as human evolved, so did the food on menu. Overtime, people found if they didn’t take care of their teeth, they developed dental problems.
Archaeology found evidence that early humans cleaned their teeth by picking at them with things like porcupine quills, animal bones, and tree twigs.
In earlier 3,500 BCE, Mesopotamians were using chew sticks to clean their teeth. Egyptian and Chinese have known to use them as well.
Ancient people were always aware of the tooth decay. But the first known scientific theory about its causes dates back at least 5,000 years, to Ancient Sumeria. The theory was that cavities were caused by a creature known as the tooth worm, which they believed would wore holes in teeth.
Cavities can actually resemble the kinds of holes that the worms bore through other materials, like wood. The Sumerians, Greeks, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, and Indian people all believed in the tooth worm. Some European doctors were still warning people that worms were the cause of their tooth decay as late as the 14th century.
Though no one knows exactly when people started brushing their teeth, archeologists believed the practice originated somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 BCE. The Babylonians and the Egyptians were the first cultures we know of to fashion rudimentary toothbrushes, which were made mostly from twigs.
The first used bristle toothbrush was created in China sometime during the Tang dynasty, between the 7tg and 10th centuries. It was made from hog bristles which would have been attached to a handle carved from bone or bamboo.
Explorers eventually brought these to the West. And in the 17th century, they began to be adopted in Europe.
In modern times, the dental ideal is considered to be a bright smile with straight white teeth. People will wear braces, use whiteners, to achieve the look. But most didn’t realise, its a relatively new fashion.
The popularity of look really only goes back to the 20th century and was greatly created by Hollywood movies. The trend, arguably, began their veneers, created by cosmetic dentist named Marcus Pincus in the 1940s. It was spotted by movie stars, like Shirley Temple and Judy Garland, who became famous for perfect smiles.
While mass market teeth whitening products didn’t became a thing until the 1980s, teeth whitening itself is nothing new.
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