· Toothbrushes were not common, so people had to find other ways of keeping their mouth clean. Some people brushed their teeth with frayed twigs and gunpowder and mouthwashes were made out of everything from lemon juice to wine. Rubbing gums with wool that had been coated with honey helped to get rid of bad breath, but it was not a great way to fight cavities.
· The first toothbrush was patented in 1857.
· By later in the 19th century, toothbrushes looked the same in shape as they do today but had handles of bone or wood and bristles generally of horse or pony hair.
· The usual word for toothpaste was “dentifrice” and many such pastes were made at home with the simplest being no more than a little soot or salt. Commercial forms could be bought over the counter, and most, whether home-made or bought were simply flavoured and often coloured abrasives—in effect, polishes.
· One recipe for such a polish was: coral, cuttlefish bone, dragons blood, burnt alum and red sanders, orris root, cloves and cinnamon, and rose pink, all to be powdered and mixed- was called American tooth powder. The cuttlefish provided polish, gently abrading the teeth, burnt alum gave recipe a “medicated” taste and may have also had a small antibacterial effect. The coral, dragon’s blood and rose pink were used for colouring and spices were added to give flavor and scent to breath.
Toothbrush patent drawing.