A Short History on Teeth – It’s Like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, But For Teeth

A Short History on Teeth – It’s Like Ripley’s Believe It or Not, But For Teeth

Ever wondered about the origin story of your pearly whites?  Well prepare to be amazed, confused, and just plain flabbergasted as we take a look at a brief history of teeth!

The Tooth Worm: Like a Glow Worm, But Invisible and Eats Teeth

The idea of dental hygiene in ancient times was almost as mythical as unicorns. Up until the 1700s, many cultures believed that cavities, gum disease and toothaches were caused by a tiny, invisible tooth worm that burrowed into teeth. One of the earliest documented beliefs of this came from the Sumerians around 5000BC. Treatments often involved coaxing the invisible worms out with honey, potions, and magic spells.

Brushing Through the Ages: From Sticks to Bristles

The first toothbrush was a far cry from the luxurious, ergonomically designed, soft bristled ones we have today. Ancient civilizations used "chew sticks," which were twigs from aromatic trees that would freshen breath and clean teeth. It wasn't until the Tang Dynasty in China that bristles made from boars’ hair were attached to bamboo or bone, creating a prototype for our modern toothbrush.

Wisdom Teeth: Not So Wise

Did you know that not everyone develops wisdom teeth. And for those who do, these late to the party teeth are often nothing but trouble. So why do we have them? Well unlike today where we have knives and forks to cut our food into bite size pieces, and the means to cook our food, evolutionary biologists believe due to our ancestors’ harder diet (and a distinctive lack of silverware at the table), they needed broader jaws, and those additional molars, to enable them to eat their giant t-bones.

What Did the Romans Ever Do For Us: Aqueducts, Roads and Mouse Toothpaste

There’s nothing like the freshness of minty breath in the morning, unless you lived in ancient times that is. Imagine using crushed rock salt, dried flowers, and mice (yes, mice) to clean your teeth. The Romans little toothpaste concoction was rather…eclectic, with abrasives like crushed bones and oyster shells, crushed mice brains and even urine, imported by the barrel load from Portugal, for whitening purposes.

So there you have it—a whimsical ride through the bizarre history of teeth. So the next time you brush, floss or visit your dentist, give a little nod to the long, strange trip our ancestors teeth have taken to get us here. And maybe, just maybe, skip the mice in your daily routine.

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