jt-phone.png 03 357 2020

a smile says a thousand words

History of dental care

The concept of looking after one’s teeth has been around for a very long time. Some people have made a lot of effort to preserve their teeth, many have not. The wealthy of Elizabethan England saw having black teeth as a status symbol, and there are tribes in Africa and Australia whose initiation to manhood ceremonies include having a front tooth knocked out.

Today the dentist hopes that you visit the dentist regularly, brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, use dental floss daily and if possible chew a bit of sugar-free chewing gum.


Tooth brush

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  Evolution of the tooth brush
Chew sticks have been found dating back to 3000BC in various ancient cultures.

The first toothbrush dates from 1223 in Japan. The brushes were made from bone and horse hair.

The concept of a toothbrush was bought back from China to Europe in the mid 1450s as trade between the two cultures began.     

In 1780 William Addis, an Englishman, was the first person to mass produce toothbrushes. His original brush was made from bone with holes drilled in it to attach fibres to.

The first patent on the toothbrush was issued in 1885 and consisted of a bone handle with animal bristles. The problem with these natural fibres was that they were a haven for bacteria.

During the First World War toothbrushes were issued to British soldiers and when they (those who survived) returned to civilian life they brought the concept of teeth brushing to the masses. In the US the concept did not catch on until after the Second World War and it was the GIs returning from Europe who introduced it to their society.

DuPont made the first synthetic fibre toothbrush in 1938 and a year later the first electric toothbrush was manufactured in Switzerland- although its popularity did not catch on until the 1960s.

Brushing your teeth twice a day is important, as is a correct brushing action which removes plaque and food from your teeth.

It is recommended that you brush with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes in the evening before going to bed, and in the morning before having your breakfast.


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Many cultures such as the ancient Indian and Chinese have had their own special recipe for toothpaste. The Greeks used crushed up shells to help give their teeth that clean look.

A recipe for toothpaste in the mid 1850s could ask for the use of chalk, pulverised brick, salt, charcoal and soap.

Toothpaste was normally sold in a jar. In 1892 the collapsible tube (made from lead!) was invented.      

In 1914 fluoride was first added to toothpaste, however it was not marketed until 1959.

Toothpaste is an important part of dental care.

As discussed brushing your teeth is very important. The fluoride in toothpaste helps to strengthen teeth by promoting re mineralisation, this aids in repairing early decay. Ingredients in toothpaste also help to polish teeth and remove stains. Toothpaste also helps freshen the breath.


Dental Floss

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Holes form in between the teeth due to lack of flossing


Levi Spear Parmly, a dentist from New Orleans, is credited with the idea of using silk to clean between his teeth in 1815.

The concept did not catch on very quickly.

In 1898  Johnson and Johnson  put a patent on dental floss, but it was not until after the Second World War and the invention of synthetic fibres that floss became more common.  

Flossing is important as it removes the food and plaque which gets stuck in between the teeth. A person may brush their teeth regularly however, if they do not floss then they are at risk of developing lesions.



Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine (Echo Library)By George M. Gould, Walter L. Pyle