p-dental-care-msg - 3/15/11
Period dental care.
This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.
This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org
I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.
The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.
Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).
Mark S. Harris AKA: THLord Stefan li Rous
Stefan at florilegium.org
From: hrjones at uclink.berkeley.edu (Heather Rose Jones)
Subject: Oral hygiene (was: cloven fruit)
Date: 24 Nov 1994 03:29:39 GMT
Organization: University of California, Berkeley
David Salley (salley at niktow.canisius.edu) wrote:
: First you say they're used in oral hygiene and then you say you don't use
: them? ;-) BTW, what _DID_ the average person use for oral hygiene back
: then? Are tooth brushes/paste/etc. period?
I don't know how matters stood in less civilized parts of the world, but
Giraldus Cambrensis -- writing of 12th century Wales -- notes:
"Both sexes take great care of their teeth, more than I have seen in any
country. They are constantly cleaning them with green hazel-shoots and
then rubbing them with woollen cloths until they shine like ivory. To
protect their teeth they never eat hot food, but only what is cold, tepid
or slightly warm." [from the Penguin Classics tranlation]
Tangwystyl verch Morgant Glasvryn
Subject: Re: Oral hygiene (was: cloven fruit)
From: una at bregeuf.stonemarche.org (Honour Horne-Jaruk)
Date: Fri, 25 Nov 94 08:14:29 EST
> David Salley (salley at niktow.canisius.edu) wrote:
> : First you say they're used in oral hygiene and then you say you don't use
> : them? ;-) BTW, what _DID_ the average person use for oral hygiene back
> : then? Are tooth brushes/paste/etc. period?
Several different books of manners, from the 14th to 16th century,
have recipes for tooth-cleaning mixtures to be rubbed on with a wet linen
cloth. The only one I remember offhand involved charcoal and chalk wetted
with lees (dregs) of wine. If I ever find a palatable mix I may start putting
it up for sale at Pennsic...
Yrs in Service
(Friend) Honour Horne-Jaruk R.S.F.
Alizaunde, Demoiselle de Bregeuf C.O.L. SCA
It's rude to yell at other people for not obeying the rules if you aren't.
From: Kelly.Coco at mvs.udel.EDU
Subject: Oral hygiene (was; cloven fruit)
Date: 27 Nov 1994 13:27:10 -0500
Steiner sends Greetings unto the Rialto!
First, I'd like to thank all those who responded to my query on
the origins of the *cloved* fruit. Thanks especially (I think...) to
Alizaunde (sp?) for starting this tradition. Who knew how big it
would become? We've been doing it for what seems like forever too!
Second, I'd like to respond to the request about oral hygiene in
period. I found this poem of Catullus on just that subject. It is
reprinted from _The Poems of Catullus_ Penguin Books, Translator P.
Whigham, 1966 reprint 1979 It is a bit on the baser side of Lit. as
you would expect of Catullus. If you are easily offended here is the
disclaimer to stop reading now......
Because he has bright white teeth, Eg-
natius whips out a
tooth-flash on all possible
(& impossible) occaissions.
You're in court. Counsel for defense
concludes a moving per-
oration. (Grin.) At a funeral
on all sides heart-broken
mothers weep for only sons. (Grin.)
Where, when, whatever the
place or time - grin. It could be a
sort of 'tic'. If so, it's
a very *vulgar* tic, Egnatius,
& one to be rid of.
A Roman, a Tiburtine or
Sabine, washes his teeth.
Well fed Umbrians & over-
fed Etruscans wash theirs
daily. The dark Lanuvians
(who don't need to), & we
Veronese, all wash our teeth....
*But we keep them tucked in*
We spare ourselves the nadir of
laughter. You come from Spain. Spaniards
use their morning urine
for tooth wash. To us that blinding
mouthful means one thing &
one only- the quantity of
urine you have swallowed.
FWIW, it would seem that our ancestors *did* practice some sort of
oral hygiene. I doubt that the Spanish actually used urine, that this
was merely Roman one-upmanship, but you never know.... Hope that this
helped if anyone cared. :-)
From: rorice at nickel.ucs.indiana.edu (rosalyn rice)
Subject: Re: Brown teeth?
Date: 10 Sep 1996 00:13:57 GMT
Organization: Indiana University, Bloomington
David M. Razler <david.razler at worldnet.att.net> wrote:
>Not quite: The diet included a good deal of whole grain and pre-selective
>-breeding veggies, not to mention tough meats, which meant a good deal of
>tough food that cleans but wears down teeth, ala Milk-Bone dog bisquets.
More to the point, the staple of medieval diet was stone-ground flour.
Since some of the grit from the millstone inevitably made it into the
flour, over a lifetime a person's teeth could get ground down.
However, medieval people *did* brush their teeth, either by using
chewed twigs or a clean rag possibly dipped in vinegar. There might have
been other methods that I don't know about.
They also tended to eat a diet that was fairly good for the teeth
- low sugar. Wine and cheese are also good for inhibiting bacterial
growth, but I don't know how much of these foods medieval people got, on
I disagree with Alexander's statement that medieval vegetables and
meats were tough enough to affect the teeth. There is no evidence that
medieval fruits and veggies were *tougher* than their modern counterparts.
(Smaller and possibly less hardy, certainly. Tougher, no.) The vast bulk
of meat available to medieval people would have been "free-range" meat,
which would be leaner and hence tougher than modern meats. (The
"toughness" of a piece of meat is determined as much by the amount of
water and fat as by the thickness of the muscle fibers). This might
account for the popularity of recipies that boil or stew meat, rather than
roasting it. But, in any case, the solution to tough meat is to boil it
longer rather than chew it longer.
From: LIB_IMC at centum.utulsa.EDU (I. Marc Carlson)
Subject: re: Brown Teeth?
Date: 17 Sep 1996 00:37:11 -0400
<Michael Fenwick<UDSD007 at DSIBM.OKLADOT.STATE.OK.US (Mike.Andrews)>>
>So we check them, and the teeth are brown. Were they brown at
>the time of death? What techniques do you use to distinguish
>between teeth stained in the grave and teeth that were already
>stained when they went into the grave?
Now I'm not a forensic dentist, but I would assume that if all they
are is "brown", and everything else is in good shape that, they were
*probably* that way when they died (regardless of what color they were).
For example, in smokers today, while their teeth are sometimes discolored
from smoking, I don't recall that this discoloration is necessarily
caused by dental decay.
From another angle, I have sitting before me photographs of the Bocksten
Bog Man's skull, and the forensic analysis of his teeth. Except for
the brownish black color, which is not as prevalent in the rest of his
skeleton, the only real dental deficiency he has is the decalsification
caused by bog. He has no caries or peridontitis. Also he had no wisdom
teeth (or any sign that he ever had any). By his clothing, he died in
the middle 14th century.
I. Marc Carlson, Reference Librarian |LIB_IMC at CENTUM.UTULSA.EDU
Tulsa Community College, West Campus LRC|Sometimes known as:
Reference Tech. McFarlin Library | Diarmuit Ui Dhuinn
University of Tulsa, 2933 E. 6th St. | University of Northkeep
Tulsa, OK 74104-3123 (918) 631-3794 | Northkeepshire, Ansteorra
From: dickeney at access2.digex.net (Dick Eney)
Subject: Re: Teeth (WAS Re: Glasses)
Date: 24 Jan 1997 17:15:38 -0500
Organization: Express Access Online Communications, Greenbelt, MD USA
Laura Shumar <lshumar at iquest.net> wrote:
>Can anyone comment on the "If we're going to be authentic we'd better
>pull our teeth 'cause NO ONE in the Middle Ages had all their teeth"
>line that pops up every now and then in discussions on authenticity?
>Offhand, I'd dismiss it as BS - granted, there wouldn't have been
>many remedies for dental pain beyond extraction, but I still think
>many people must have had sound teeth.
>Wouldn't a low-sugar diet reduce dental trouble? As I understand it,
>high sugar foods (especially those that are in contact with your
>mouth for a long time, like hard candy) are the worst cavity-causing
>culprits...I think the carbohydrates are pretty bad, too - but at
>least bread is chewed and swallowed pretty quickly.
>So, has anyone actually studied this?
From some archaeology articles I've been reading, one standard way to
guess the age of a skull is by how much the teeth have been worn down;
early bread contained lots of rock particles because the grain was ground
on stone mortars, so the teeth were worn down by the grit. After a
certain age, the teeth are described as being worn down "flat" which I
hope means only that the bumpy surface is flattened and not that the tooth
is worn down to the gumline! Of course, long before then the enamel would
be gone and the dentine exposed.
A more considerable problem might have been scurvy; fresh vegetables being
hard to get during the winter, the gums soften and the jaw bone loses
calcium and sound teeth fall out for lack of support.
Nevertheless, it would seem that, since this is a standard method of
guessing the age of a skull, most people kept their teeth, though not
necessarily in good condition (IIRC at least one Neanderthal skull was
found that showed signs of death by mastoid infection).
=Tamar the Gypsy (sharing account dickeney at access.digex.net)
Subject: ANST - FW: Byzantine/Persian medical (dental) history
Date: Mon, 01 Jun 98 11:47:24 MST
From: Vicki Marsh <zarazina at flash.net>
To: "'ansteorra'" <ansteorra at Ansteorra.ORG>
From Baroness Zara Zina
In response to Mistress Gunnora's plea,
I would forward a letter from my lady-in-waiting, who is attending dental
school. This is in response to a class I taught at Elfsea Baronial College on
I love it when one person's research leads to another's interest.
Now I want to find out more. I want to know when they started using ether
and exactly what the teeth were fumigated with.
Did you know that jewelry tools are practically identical to dental tools?
A great place to find jewelry tools for cheap is at gun shows where they
sell used dental tools.
From: Sue Dittrich [SMTP:dittrich at flash.net]
Sent: Saturday, May 30, 1998 10:45 PM
To: zarazina at flash.net
Subject: Byzantine/Persian medical (dental) history
Hello, my dear!
I hope things are going well for you. I found my notebook for the history
of dentistry, and I did find some things that might be interesting for you
and your research on Byzantine medicine. Here goes:
Rhazes (868-932 AD) Persian-Used a cement compund of alum and mastic to fill
teeth; avoided extractions by using mouthwashes for strengthening teeth.
Avicenna (Abu-Ali-al-Husayn-Ibin-Abdulah-Ibin-Sina) 980AD-1037 AD
(Persian)-- Ranked with Hippocrates and Galen as the most influential
physician of the period; theorized a cause for odontalgia; Held to the
worm theory of caries* with treatment of fumigation; wrote the Canons of
Medicine (Ganun) which was the standard medical textbook until the end of
the 15th C.
Albucasis (936-1013 AD) Cordova-wrote a treatise called the "Al-Tarsif"
which was devoted to surgery.; Made the first set of dental scaling
instruments; treated deformities (dental and medical); first to show
aversion to the "Tonsores" or "barbers."
Yeber-Arabic chemist who discovered ether.
*Worm theory of caries-- This theory is analogous to the worm in an apple.
The worm lives inside of the tooth, and eats away at the insides, eventually
rotting the tooth and causing caries. Avicenna believed that if they
fumigated the tooth, the worm would leave, and would stop the rotting of the
I hope these help! Documentation is only from this notebook by my
professor, Frank Baker, D.M.D. You might want to look up other
documentation for verification.
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 14:24:39 -0500
From: "Elyse C. Boucher" <70521.3645 at compuserve.com>
To: sca-arts at raven.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Potpourri & Dentifrice
Merouda here. Here I am, bein' naughty at work. :)
Amazon.com delivered today, and today's shipment
Brought _Martha Washington's Book of Cookery_! Yeehah!
This is a book of Elizabethan and Jacobean receipts that was at
one time in the possession of Martha Washington: the version I
obtained is transcribed by Karen Hess. As a Tudor persona, I
especially enjoy late and gray period "primary" sources, so this
one is a delight.
A while ago someone asked for general information on household
scenting, and for the life of me,
I can't recall who asked or where I read it. I'm thinking it
was misc.consumers.frugal, but it *might* have been sca-arts.
I read so many lists that I get confused sometimes.
Anyway, I was flipping through my new book and noticed a number of
receipts for pommadors and soaps and so forth. The thing that
really caught my eye was this, however, from the _Sweetmeats_
portion of the book:
<snip of perfume recipe>
Indeed, I have always been curious about the nuts and bolts of
daily living in period, and so, for those who might be interested
in such things, here are a couple more quotes from the Hess
transcription of MWBOC.
325. To Keep the Teethe clean & white & to fasten them. take
cuttle fish bone and make it into very fine powder, & rub the
teeth therewith. then wash them after with white wine & planton
water, & 3 or 4 drops of spirrit of vittorell mixt with them &
rub them well with a cloth. & it will preserve the teeth from
putrefaction, & keep them fast, white, & clean, & preserve from
the toothache, If it be used every day.
I've been planning "in persona" days for my next trip to Pennsic
and maybe WWVI; this would be an easily made dentifrice for use
upon that day. However, I would suggest that anyone planning to
TRY this omit the "spirrit of vittorell" as it is dangerous. I'm
primarily familiar with vitriol through my scribal activities
(it's a primary component in ink making), and I assure you, a
distillation of vitriol will give you sulfuric acid--not something
you want in your mouth. Actually, reading through the recipes,
I've noticed the use of several scribal materials as medicinal
preparations--jeweler's rouge, Armenian Bole, cochineal, others.
This interests me greatly; I always enjoy finding how various
substances get put to many uses. But I digress. :)
Your Servant, Merouda Pendray
Date: Sat, 12 Feb 2000 02:32:22 -0000
From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>
Subject: Re: SC - Response from author of horrible period foods article.
>Note that of the two researchers, one is studying Alaskan cultures, and the
>other Newfoundland culture. What has that to do with 11th century Northern
>Europe? Unless they are basing their information on studies of the bodies
>of Viking explorers ...
If such bodies were to be found, this is probably exactly the information
they would give. Teeth of skeletons excavated from 11th and 10th century
Icelandic churchyards and other burial sites are always very worn, even in
quite young people, and I believe the same applies to the Norse
Greenlanders. That may be because dried fish and meat and other "hard food",
as we call it, was a large part of their diet.
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 10:18:36 -0400
From: Sharon Gordon <gordonse at one.net>
To: sca-cooks at ansteorra.org
Subject: [Sca-cooks] Ancient 4th century AD Egyption recipe for herbal
According to the document, written in the fourth century AD, the ingredients
needed for the perfect smile are one drachma of rock salt - a measure equal
to one hundredth of an ounce - two drachmas of mint, one drachma of dried
iris flower and 20 grains of pepper, all of them crushed and mixed together.
More details at
gordonse at one.net
From: "Decker, Terry D." <TerryD at Health.State.OK.US>
To: "'sca-cooks at ansteorra.org'" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 2003 13:21:37 -0500
Subject: [Sca-cooks] RE: Sca-cooks digest, Vol 1 #3387 - 14 msgs
> According to the document, written in the fourth century AD, the ingredients
> needed for the perfect smile are one drachma of rock salt - a measure equal
> to one hundredth of an ounce -
Sorry, the drachma is not "one hundredth of an ounce," as the article
states. The measure is based on the Greek drachma coin. A drachma was
slightly more than one tenth of an ounce avoirdupois (.113 oz. or 3.2
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2011 15:15:38 -0500
From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] dental was Green stuff and brown glop
From: Mark Hendershott <crimlaw at jeffnet.org>
<<< I think I recall seeing reports that analysis of skeletal remains
from the (early?) medieval period revealed pretty good teeth and that
poor dentition began to be more noticeable later on. >>>
A quick search through various databases doesn't wholeheartedly
support this notion that their teeth were perfect because
they didn't eat sugar.
Here's one abstract that notes the typical treatments. Br Dent J. 2004
Dental treatment in Medieval England. By T. Anderson
Medieval (12th-14th century) medical literature suggests that care of
the teeth was largely limited to non-invasive treatment. Cures, mainly
for toothache and "tooth worm" were based on herbal remedies, charms
and amulets. Bloodletting was advised for certain types of toothache.
There is also documentary evidence for powders to clean teeth and
attempts at filling carious cavities. Surgical intervention for oral
cancer and facial fracture is also known. Post-operative infection and
abscess formation can be identified and early forms of false teeth are
Another study noted that chronic inflammatory disease of the maxillary
sinus was present and "In contrast to the present-day situation, we
found dental infection to be a major cause of maxillary sinusitis."
Johnnae, playing librarian
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2011 15:30:17 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
From: Elise Fleming <alysk at ix.netcom.com>
To: "sca-cooks at ansteorra.org" <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>
Subject: [Sca-cooks] State of Teeth in Middle Ages
Greetings! I want to echo the comments that dental health during the Middle Ages was better than we thought. I'm not sure about specific articles on dental health, but the most recent mention was in an article cited by SCAtoday. You can find it at http://www.economist.com/node/17722650 . It's an article about the Battle of Towton and the violence of that battle. The teeth part is in the section called "Who Are You Calling Short?"
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2011 17:15:47 -0800 (PST)
From: Dan Schneider <schneiderdan at ymail.com>
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] State of Teeth in Middle Ages
True, but this isn't actually a report: it's closer to a museums "about us" page. It's simply an introduction to the main project and brief description of some of the subprojects, with very general mentions of some of the findings of those subprojects. The webpage also doesn't mention the proposed sequence of blows for skull 25; that info, and presumably the statement about the teeth would have come from either speaking with the osteologists, or reading of the actual osteo reports.
--- On Sat, 1/29/11, Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com> wrote:
<<< Odd. The original report on their website
fails to mention teeth or dental at all.
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2011 21:28:44 -0500
From: Johnna Holloway <johnnae at mac.com>
To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>
Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] State of Teeth in Middle Ages
If you actually follow all the links as I did, you'll eventually come
Towton Hall & Towton Battlefield
Site Code: TOWMG03 & TOWARO03
NGR: SE 48444 3956 & SE 479 382
Report No 0504
4.0 DENTAL HEALTH
Analysis of the teeth from archaeological populations provides vital
clues about health, diet and oral hygiene, as
well as information about environmental and congenital conditions. A
total of 22 teeth were recovered from the
BF03, six of which were still retained in a right maxilla (Table 5).
Additionally, two teeth were recovered from
the plough soil on the battlefield prior to the excavation BF03, which
were included in Table 5. No teeth were
recovered from TH03 or MG03.
The lack of skulls meant that none of the individual skeletons had
surviving dentitions. Similarly, no loose teeth
were recovered from the recently excavated part of the mass grave.
Table 6 Summary of teeth from BF03 snipped for length
Dental wear tends to be more common and severe in archaeological
populations than in modern societies, and is
caused by a much coarser diet. The severity of the anterior wear on
the teeth recovered was greater compared
with that in the posterior teeth. This may be because the majority of
posterior teeth found were third molars
(wisdom teeth), which are subject to less use.
Calculus (dental plaque) is commonly observed in archaeological
populations whose dental hygiene was not as
rigorous as it is today. Calculus mineralises and forms concretions
on the tooth crowns, along the line of the
gums. Calculus was observed in the majority of teeth (70%), and was
slight throughout. The prevalence of
calculus was similar to that observed in the skeletons from MG96,
which affected 78.6% of teeth (Holst and
Coughlan 2000, 81) and which is normal for medieval cemeteries.
Caries lesions (cavities) were not very common before an increase in
the availability of sugar in the 17th century (Roberts and Manchester 1995, 49). Diet in medieval England was largely sucrose-free for the majority of the populace. Only one cavity was observed in a right canine from BF03 (see Table 5; Plate 11), which was large and had destroyed most of the tooth crown. A total of 85.7% of individuals from MG96 suffered from caries, although only 8.9% of teeth were affected (Holst and Coughlan 2000, 80).
Dental enamel hypoplasia (DEH) is the manifestation of lines, grooves
or pits on the crown surface of the teeth which represent cessation of crown
snipped DEH was observed in six teeth
(28.6%), all of which were anterior teeth, with the exception of two
premolars. In comparison, nine individuals
(32.1%) from MG96 suffered from DEH, which affected 5.1% of the
teeth. This prevalence corresponds with
that observed at many medieval cemeteries. However, the prevalence of
DEH in the teeth from BF03 was
considerably higher. This could suggest that the individuals who were
buried on the battlefield were of lower
socio-demographic status, enduring a more stressful childhood than
those individuals buried at Towton Hall, or
that the teeth recovered were coincidentally high in DEH.
Manifestations of dental injuries are commonly observed in
skeletons from archaeological excavations. These can be the result
of bumps and falls during childhood (the cause of most dental
injuries today) (Andreasen 1981, 24), or alternatively, might be
related to interpersonal violence or combat. A further explanation
might be the usage of teeth in occupational tasks, such as hide
preparation or mending of fishing nets. Three ante- /peri-mortem
fractures were observed in the teeth recovered from BF03. These
affected a first molar, a maxillary incisor and a further
unidentifiable tooth. Infractions (chipping) of the anterior teeth are
commonly observed, while molar infractions tend to be much less
common, although ten of these were observed in soldiers from the
MG96. The dental injuries were related either to head trauma or to
clenching of the teeth in stressful battle
situations (Hicks, pers. comm.).
So these were not perfect teeth and there were caries "A total of
85.7% of individuals from MG96 suffered from caries".
I've ordered the actual book. Should be here next week. Has anyone
else ordered it yet?
On Jan 28, 2011, at 8:15 PM, Dan Schneider wrote:
<<< True, but this isn't actually a report: it's closer to a museums
"about us" page. It's simply an introduction to the main project and
brief description of some of the subprojects, with very general
mentions of some of the findings of those subprojects. The webpage
also doesn't mention the proposed sequence of blows for shull 25;
that info, and presumably the statement about the teeth would have
come from either speaking with the osteologists, or reading of the
actual osteo reports.