A Short History of White Toothed Smiles

A Brief History of Tooth Whitening Through the Ages

Since the beginning of mankind and long before speech was invented, we communicated largely through our body language, and an important part of that body language would have been our smile.

It would be interesting to go back in time and see how white teeth were then. On the one hand, people would have survived on a healthy no sugar diet, yet on the other, toothpaste and other dental products would not have been around.

It has always been human nature to wish to appear attractive to others, and a nice white toothed smile has a worldwide appeal. So what methods would people have used in years gone by?

Perhaps the first toothbrush would have been used around 3000BC when ‘chewsticks’ were used. These were a very elementary form of toothbrush consisting of a small branch with a frayed end which would then be used to scrape food and debris from the teeth. These must have been reasonably effective as similar brushes are still used in some poorer parts of the world.

Around the Fifteenth century, the Chinese invented the first toothbrush as we know them, using coarse pigs hair which were attached to bamboo or bone. Some of these were brought back to Europe by traders, but did not catch on with the more sophisticated Europeans, most of whom did not brush their teeth at all. The only ones actually brushing them were the wealthy upper class who also used a rudimentary form of tooth pick to remove particles of food from their teeth. These toothbrushes were often made of badger hair but this was later considered unhygienic and alternatives were sought, although it was not until 1938 when the first nylon brush made its appearance. Since then, technology has moved on a little and we have seen the electric toothbrush amongst other things.

Toothpaste has also always been a big factor in the whitening of teeth, with the Egyptians producing one of the first pastes, made of powdered pumice stone and wine vinegar. The Romans perhaps made one of the biggest discoveries in toothpaste though, using human urine to remove the stains from teeth, and its active ingredient is still used in toothpaste today albeit not in that form thankfully, but it is widely recognised that ammonia is a key ingredient in the cleaning of teeth.

But of course, with progress comes setbacks and there is no doubting that there are many factors of modern life which causes teeth to stain, from tea and coffee to smoking and drinking.

Yet, we all yearn for that beautiful smile, and the dental industry has not been slow to respond. There are now many techniques which enable us to regain that lost whiteness of our teeth and these teeth whitening processes are one of the fastest growing parts of the dental industry.

There are even ‘DIY’ kits available, however, it is advisable to have the treatment done by a professional as tooth whitening treatment can lead to teeth being extra sensitive if the wrong treatment is used. Our experienced Harley Street cosmetic dentist will be able to advise and treat you using the best method available for your teeth. Please contact us for a consultation.

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