THERE WAS SOMETHING rotten in the state of England during the Early Modern Era: teeth with decay. Everyone had a sweet tooth! The English loved the expensive new commodity of sugar so much that the royalty and nobility were extremely prone to tooth decay and foul breath. Foul breath seems to have been on Shakespeare’s mind too because it got at least three mentions in his plays and sonnets.
A Class-Based Dental Health Crisis
The weirdest part is that having a decayed tooth was such a pervasive problem among the rich in particular that it became trendy among the lower classes to artificially blacken their teeth with soot. It was a great way for them to make themselves seem wealthy enough to afford sugar! Unfortunately, back then people didn’t realize the health implications of consuming so much of the luxurious sugar they so loved!
Early Modern Dental Health… Solutions?
How did the English try to keep their teeth healthy? They used herbs like cloves for their breath and toothpicks and cloths to clean their teeth to avoid having a mouth full of teeth with decay. (We would much rather have our modern toothbrushes.)
When these methods proved insufficient to prevent cavities, many people would end up with a decayed tooth. When the tooth became so painful that it needed to be pulled, they had a few options depending on budget. The most expensive choice was a surgeon, but a “tooth-drawer” was cheaper and a blacksmith would do it for a real bargain.
It’s Good to Have Modern Dentists
Isn’t it wonderful to live in a time when we have effective dental hygiene and access to twelve different specialties of dental professionals, everything from pediatric dentists to orthodontists to endodontists and more?
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The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.