today is world oral health day

Our Charlotte Ellis looks at oral hygiene past and present

We are solicitors acting for dentists and dental professionals when they face investigation in the workplace or by the General Dental Council.

As 20 March 2017 is World Oral Health day we thought it might be fun to look at oral hygiene past and present.

It would appear that, even 500 years ago, yellow or brown teeth were not aesthetically pleasing. So what did people do in the absence of toothbrushes and toothpaste which were only patented in the 1850s?

In medieval times (think Henry VIII and his predecessors) bad breath was commonplace so people chewed herbs such as mint, cinnamon, sage and cloves to freshen it.

In terms of teeth cleaning, rubbing them with a clean cloth was thought to prevent tartar build up and to remove food debris, along with a good rinse of water to remove the particles.

In addition, a mixture of mint and vinegar was used as a rinse but what they didn’t realise was the acidic vinegar, whilst potentially helping to remove build ups on the teeth, was also stripping the enamel away.

Often bay leaves were soaked in orange flower water and musk as a kind of early ‘paste’ for the teeth.

But what happened if the tooth rotted and became painful, in the absence of dentists? Step in the barber who would take the troublesome teeth out (without anaesthetic) and sometimes pack the cavity left by the tooth as a sort of filling.

In Elizabethan times, a vinegar, wine and alum mouthwash was used for oral hygiene and comfits were taken (by the rich, of course) after dinner to help to freshen breath.

At a time when being aesthetically pleasing was ever important, powdered sage was used as a rub in an effort to whiten teeth, whilst burnt rosemary was used as a sort of early toothpaste.

Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the barbers were still practising ‘dentistry’ of sorts but by 1790 the very first porcelain teeth, dentures and gold crowns were in use.

In 1790, the first dentist drill was used and was operated by foot and used to clean out cavities although it was not until the late 1700s when the first dental chair was made and used.

From 1795 – 1837 the same methods of ‘dentistry were used but people were becoming more aware of dental hygiene and most were scrubbing their teeth with a sponge and warm water at least once per day.

Gunpowder and alum were also used as a sort of toothpaste whilst in France one of the very first famous dentists recommended that people use their own urine on their teeth!

Toothbrushes and toothpaste were invented in the 1850s and it was recommended that people visit their dentists once every 6 months.

This remains the case today with dentists recommending check ups once every 6 weeks for us. However, despite all the knowledge we now have about our teeth and the importance of looking after them, the following facts might surprise you:

  • 25% of adults have not visited their dentist in over two years
  • More than 25% of adults only visit their dentist when they have a problem
  • One in three people have never flossed their teeth
  • Only 31% of adults use mouthwash
  • One in ten adults admit they forget to brush their teeth
  • 42% of adults only use a toothbrush and toothpaste
  • 25% of adults only brush their teeth once per day with men as the main offenders
  • Adults are 33% more likely to get tooth decay if they only brush their teeth once per day
  • 2% of the population has never visited a dentist
  • On average each adult has seven fillings
  • Only 9% of men and 11% of women have oral health classed as ‘excellent’
  • 66% of adults have visible plaque
  • 29% of adults suffer from regular toothache
  • 74% of adults have had to have a tooth taken out
  • 31% of adults have tooth decay
  • One third of all children starting school have signs of tooth decay
  • Taking teeth out is the biggest reason why children attend hospital and have general anaesthetic
  • Sugar makes up 15% of calorific intake per day for children aged between 4 and 10
  • 40% of our children do not visit the dentist each year

So what do these statistics tell us? They show that we all need to ensure that we recognise the importance of looking after our mouths and teeth.

So, cut down on the sugar, brush more, floss more, use mouthwash and make sure you see your dentist every six months for a check up!

If you are a dentist or dental professional in need of legal advice please do contact our specialist team on 0161 827 9500.